Tal­iban in first talks out­side Afghanistan

The Daily Telegraph - - World news - By Ben Farmer in Is­lam­abad

TAL­IBAN en­voys have taken part for the first time in high-level in­ter­na­tional talks, meet­ing Afghan of­fi­cials in Moscow as part of a Rus­sian-spon­sored peace ef­fort.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the mil­i­tants’ Doha of­fice said they were tak­ing part along­side se­nior diplo­mats from the re­gion to find “a peace­ful so­lu­tion to the is­sue of Afghanistan”.

Both the mil­i­tants and Afghan gov­ern­ment in­sisted the dis­cus­sions were not for­mal ne­go­ti­a­tions. The meet­ing ended with­out any break­through.

The leader of the Tal­iban del­e­ga­tion said the move­ment was not ready to speak di­rectly to Ashraf Ghani’s gov­ern­ment and would in­stead ne­go­ti­ate with the United States.

The con­fer­ence ap­peared to be Rus­sia’s at­tempt to in­flu­ence peace ef­forts which have been dom­i­nated by Wash­ing­ton. Sergei Lavrov, the Rus­sian for­eign min­is­ter, said the par­tic­i­pa­tion of Afghan lead­ers and the Tal­iban was an “im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tion” aimed at cre­at­ing “favourable con­di­tions for the start of di­rect talks”.

A Tal­iban state­ment be­fore the meet­ing said: “There will not be any sort of ne­go­ti­a­tions tak­ing place with the del­e­ga­tion of the Kabul ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

Kabul said its rep­re­sen­ta­tives were not an of­fi­cial gov­ern­ment del­e­ga­tion, but did ac­knowl­edge that they would “dis­cuss the dy­nam­ics and de­tails of ini­ti­at­ing di­rect ne­go­ti­a­tions”.

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