Pakistan, Afghanistan discuss mutual peace, solidarity in second bilateral meeting

Sergey Lavrov said the meeting is meant to seek paths to national reconciliation in Afghanistan

Sergey Lavrov said the meeting is meant to seek paths to national reconciliation in Afghanistan

Moscow has also invited representatives from the United States, India, Iran, China, Pakistan and five former Soviet republics in Central Asia - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

The development marks a major shift in New Delhi's policy as this is the first time ever that India will attend a forum in which the Taliban will be present.

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While the Moscow meeting isn't likely to yield concrete results, Russia's intervention is taking place as President Donald Trump's administration has stepped up diplomatic activity, twice sending officials to meet with the Taliban in recent months and appointing a veteran envoy to advise on Afghan peace.

In a statement issued this week by the Taliban, the group said: "Taliban political envoys will attend the meeting but the participation does not mean they will hold talks with anyone".

The Geneva conference will follow a 12-nation meeting in Moscow on Friday.

The convention for Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS) had Deputy Minister of Refugees and Repatriation, Dr. Alema lead the Afghan delegation while Mr. Mohammad Aslam, Secretary SAFRON headed the Pakistan side.

"The United States believes that all countries should support direct dialogue between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban to reach an end to the war and we have been clear that no government, including Russian Federation, can be a substitute for the Afghan government in direct negotiations with the Taliban".

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Russian Federation has hosted talks with Taliban delegates and members of Afghanistan's high peace council, as the Kremlin seeks a role as peace broker between Islamist rebels and the US-backed government in Kabul.

This will be the first time that India will be sharing talks table with the Afghan Taliban on issues of peace and stability in Afghanistan.

On Wednesday, an unnamed spokesperson for the U.S. State Department reportedly confirmed that, in coordination with Kabul, the U.S. embassy in Moscow "will send a representative to the working level to observe the discussions". Its representatives won't meet directly with the Taliban officials, he said.

"Our agreement with the Russians is that this meeting should lead to direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban", Sibghat Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Afghan foreign ministry said, according to the National.

He also shared the demands of Taliban for reconciliation which included establishment of environment of trust, removal of USA sanctions on Taliban, specifying a safe zone for peace talks, opening of a formal office for Taliban, worldwide community's guarantee of peace talks, and release of prisoners.

The Taliban's attendance will bolster the group's worldwide status, while the meeting gives Moscow the chance to influence peace efforts until now dominated by Washington. Khalilzad leads the USA mission for Afghan peace in the area. "It is a meeting on Afghanistan in Moscow".

But Russia is also concerned a USA failure in Afghanistan will see it become a renewed source of terrorism, and is already seeking to block the flow of narcotics from the country.

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