Taliban says not ready for direct talks with Kabul
Afghan government asks Taliban to name date and place for direct talks, but Taliban rejects legitimacy of Kabul government
MOSCOW: As the second round of the Moscow format consultations on Afghanistan ended in the Russian capital, the Afghan government and Taliban still seemed far apart and unlikely to negotiate unmediated without a breakthrough.
Participants at the meeting focused on launching direct inter-Afghan dialogue aiming at stabilization of the country and “agreed to continue consultations within the framework of this mechanism," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a final communique following the meeting.
Din Mohammad Azizullah, head of the Afghan government delegation, confirmed that he had "brief talks" with the Taliban members at a working lunch, characteriz- ing the talks as "friendly."
But Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, who led the Taliban group, reiterated that the Taliban does not see the current government in Kabul as legitimate.
"This government does not represent the people of Afghanistan, so we reject direct contact with them before the problem with the U.S. is solved. Therefore, we will talk with the Americans, especially about the withdrawal of troops," he said.
"We met with the American side at the negotiating table and asked them to leave Afghanistan. But, of course, so far these negotiations are at a very early stage, we haven’t reached an agreement yet," he said.
The meeting marked the first time the Afghan government and Taliban meet for direct talks at a high level.
The conference was held at the level of deputy foreign ministers and related special representatives.
Addressing participants at the start of the conference, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the meeting is meant to seek paths to national reconciliation in Afghanistan.
Before the meeting, Habiba Sarabi, a member of the Afghan High Peace Council delegation, said the Afghan government delegation came to Moscow to talk to the Taliban.
"Our expectations are to talk to the Taliban members at this meeting," she said.
She added: "We came here for a political solution. We appreciate the efforts of any country that tries to contribute to Afghan peace."