A group of Afghan politicians led by former President Hamid Karzai and a 14-member Taliban team led by the co-founder of the group Abdul Ghani Baradar sat for the second day in Moscow to discuss the Afghan peace, but behind the closed doors.
The group rejected the calls for a ceasefire which was the main demand by Afghan politicians – who publicly raised the demand at a ceremony in Moscow on the centenary of Afghanistan-Russia diplomatic ties on Tuesday, May 28.
Sources said the second day of the meeting was also focused on peace and pressuring the Taliban to agree on a ceasefire with the Taliban – at least in the upcoming Eid al-Fitr.
Backing their deputy leader’s stance, a Taliban spokesman told reporters on Wednesday that ceasefire is not possible in presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan – who are helping the Afghan forces in their fight against the Taliban and other insurgent groups since 2001.
“How a ceasefire will be possible when the country is ‘occupied’?” asked Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman of the Taliban.
Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, a senior member of the Taliban who has led six rounds of talks with US negotiators, said they hope to reach an agreement on US forces withdrawal from Afghanistan in the next round of the talks – probably next month.
According to him, the US and Taliban negotiators could not reach an agreement on troop withdrawal in their sixth round of talks in April.
“The timetable has not been fixed so far... Therefore, we hope to reach some sort of agreement in the future negotiations,” Stanekzai said.
Meanwhile, former National Security Advisor and presidential candidate Mohammad Haneef Atmar said troop withdrawal is “a top priority”, but added that “foreign terrorists should be eliminated from Afghanistan”.
“We are sure that we can achieve these goals through negotiations,” Atmar added.
Sources familiar with Moscow talks said the Taliban has refused to meet separately with High Peace Council Chairman Mohammad Karim Khalili and Afghan Ambassador Latif Bahand, who represented the Afghan government at the meeting.
The High Peace Council has rejected the report.
A number of Moscow meeting delegates said they hope that the next meeting between Afghans will be held in Doha next month.