Russia Invites Taliban to Peace Talks
This Friday, Afghan Taliban officials will participate in multilateral peace talks organized by Russia. Russia also invited representatives from several other countries — including India, Pakistan, Iran, China, and the United States — to Moscow.
The Russian foreign ministry’s statement on November 3 declared that the talks represent the first time the Political Office of the Taliban Movement in Doha will participate in “an international meeting of this level.” It added that Afghanistan’s President, Ashraf Ghani, is sending a delegation of the High Peace Council, a government body responsible for kickstarting the Afghan government’s diplomatic negotiations with the Taliban, to Moscow.
Afghanistan’s foreign ministry has yet to decide whether it will dispatch a delegation to the meeting. “We are still negotiating with the Russian officials,” government spokesman Sebghatullah Ahmadi told the press. Meanwhile, the United States has declined the invitation.
In August, Russia proposed multilateral peace talks in Moscow, inviting 12 nations and the Taliban to attend a summit scheduled for September 4. However, President Ghani and the United States declined to send representatives to the summit, arguing that the Afghan government should be the key instigator of peace talks with the Taliban. The meeting was later postponed.
Similar sentiments are echoed in this round of negotiations, as both the US and Afghanistan fear that Russian interference could hinder the ongoing US-backed peace process in Afghanistan. Russia’s diplomatic play to host the summit on Friday despite President Ghani’s concerns demonstrates the tension between the Afghanistan-US coalition’s diplomatic efforts and Russia’s desire to play an increasingly active role in the peace process.
Though US-backed negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban have intensified in the past month, many Afghan officials support the talks in Moscow. This group includes Hamid Karzai, the former president of Afghanistan, a critic ofUS involvement in Afghanistan who welcomes Russia’s active engagement as a new option for the nation. Karzai will attend the talks in Moscow.
Russia’s foreign ministry concluded its statement by reaffirming that “no alternative” exists to a political settlement in Afghanistan that requires “active coordinated work of the neighboring countries and regional partners of Afghanistan.”