Russian Federation brings together India and the Taliban at the negotiating table

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Head- Deputy Chairman of the Afghanistan High Peace Council Din Mohammad Azizullah and Head of Political Office of the Taliban Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai

"Our participation at the meeting will be at the non-official level", Ministry of External Affairs' official spokesperson, Raveesh Kumar, said. Kumar also slammed the opposition parties for their remarks in this regard and questioned, "Don't know how are people concluding that India will hold talks with the Taliban".

The meeting, which underlines Russia's desire to be involved in any settlement in Afghanistan, took place as USA special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad prepared for a fresh round of talks with Taliban officials in Qatar.

Maintaining that India supports "Afghan-led" reconciliation process, the MEA spokesperson said, "India supports all efforts at peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan that will preserve unity and plurality, and bring security, stability and prosperity to the country".

The Taliban has refused direct talks with the Afghan government, which it views as a USA puppet, saying it will only negotiate the end of the 17-year war directly with Washington.

After the talks, in a joint statement, the two sides declared their support to the Afghan government's efforts towards the realisation of an Afghan-led, and Afghan-owned national peace reconciliation process.

On Thursday, Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, revealed that a five-man delegation would participate in the conference, stressing, "There will not be any sort of negotiations taking place with the delegation of Kabul administration".

On Tuesday, the Taliban also confirmed it would send a delegation to the meeting.

The statement, released on November 8, says that the United States envoy will meet with Afghan government officials and other interested parties to advance the goal of an intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations that include the Taliban and lead to a sustainable peace.

The United States will send an observer to an Afghan peace conference that begins in Moscow on Friday but it will send a high-level delegation to another Afghan conference in Geneva later this month.

When asked why India's stand had undergone a significant shift vis-à-vis the Taliban, government officials said that the decision was the outcome of "close discussions with the Afghanistan government", and it was felt necessary for India to have a "presence" there. The Afghan government refused to send its officials to the meeting but has allowed a delegation of the country's High Peace Council to take part in the event.

The Taliban is banned from operating Russian Federation as it is classified as a "terrorist organisation".

Newly appointed United States peace envoy Khalilzad has been trying to convince the Taliban to agree to negotiate an end to the war and there are fears the Russian meeting could derail those efforts.

Originally opposed to the idea of holding talks with the Taliban, Afghanistan's government had pulled out of the scheduled negotiations on September 4.

A USA government watchdog last week said Kabul´s control of Afghanistan had slipped in recent months as local security forces suffered heavy casualties while making minimal or no progress against the Taliban.

Reportedly, this is the second time that Russian Federation is trying to bring regional powers together in an attempt to bring stability and peace in the war-torn nation of Afghanistan.

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