Afghan Govt Again Steps Back From Moscow Peace Meeting

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) said Monday the Afghan government will not send a delegation to attend a planned peace meeting on Afghanistan in the Russian capital, Moscow.

MoFA spokesman Sibghat Ahmadi however confirmed that a delegation from the High Peace Council (HPC) will attend the meeting in an independent capacity.

“This time, only a group has been invited, therefore we are not going to participate in it, but our agreement with the Russians is that this meeting should lead to direct talks between us (Afghan government) and the Taliban, if it does not happen like this, then this will reflect the intention of the Taliban and this means they (Taliban) are not prepared for peace,” said Ahmadi.

Meanwhile, HPC officials said it will send a delegation to the conference under the leadership of Hajji Deen Mohammad, the deputy head of the peace council.

The HPC said its delegation will not meet representatives of the Taliban on the sidelines of the summit.

“A delegation from the HPC, under the leadership of the deputy head of the council Hajji Deen Mohammad will attend the Moscow peace meeting on Afghanistan, the main agenda of the meeting will be the start of direct peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the armed Afghan Taliban. This will be assessed at the conference, we hope to convey good news to the people of Afghanistan about direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in the near future,” said HPC spokesman Sayed Ehsan Tahiri.

However, this comes a day after MoFA said that discussions are still ongoing between Afghanistan and Russia about the nature and details of the peace meeting in Moscow.

“We are in consultations about the modality, nature and timing of the Moscow meeting, these items are still under discussion, but what could happen is that a High Peace Council delegation could attend the Moscow peace meeting; but the government until now has not finalized its decision about the Moscow peace meeting,” said Ahmadi on Sunday.

There are reports however that Russia has also invited some of Afghanistan’s mainstream politicians to the summit.

According to Reuters, former Afghan president Hamid Karzai and CEO of Jamiat-e-Islami party of Afghanistan, Attar Mohammad Noor, have already accepted the invitation by the Russian government to attend the meeting.

A number of political figures invited to the Moscow peace meeting on Afghanistan last week said that differences between Washington and Moscow are apparently delaying the planned meeting.

Politicians said that further delays were not in the interests of Afghanistan.

“We should not be shaky when it comes to peace, wherever a voice is heard about peace in Afghanistan, we should take part in it,” said former governor of Herat Sayed Fazlullah Wahidi.

It appears that  the key challenges around such talks are questions on the role and status the Taliban will play at such a meeting, the participation of countries, the role of Pakistan and on whether Afghanistan will take the lead in such talks.

Originally the meeting was scheduled for September 4 in Moscow, but Afghanistan refused to attend citing that any such discussions should be Afghan-led.

In August, the Afghan government announced that Afghanistan and Russia will co-chair proposed future talks in Moscow on Afghanistan’s peace.

These are the talks that are still to be held.

Delegations from twelve countries have reportedly been invited to attend the conference including a delegation from Taliban’s political office in Qatar.

But, the Taliban said in a statement the group has not taken a final decision on whether to attend the meeting.

“The issue that the government is not attending Moscow meeting indicates that they (government officials) have no independent decision making authorities and on the other hand, they do not believe in bringing about peace in Afghanistan and the Afghan government itself confessed that it had been pushed to the sidelines when it comes to peace talks. I think one of the reasons that the government was pushed to the sidelines is that they don’t have intention for peace,” said MP Fawzia Kofi.

“Any country in the world which takes a step towards the peace process in Afghanistan, will be welcomed by the people,” said MP Mohammad Reza Khoshak Watandost.

US sources have also said that the meeting will not have any positive implications on the peace process in Afghanistan.

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