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Russia to host Afghan summit to jumpstart peace process


The meeting comes amid international pressure to fast track delayed talks to end decades of conflict between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Russia is set to host an Afghan meeting later this month in efforts to discuss ways to help advance the Doha-based intra-Afghan talks, the Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

The 18 March meeting will be attended by representatives of the Afghan Government, the Taliban,  Russia, the United State, China and Pakistan, Maria Zakharova announced, according to state-run TASS news agency.

Qatar will attend as an “honoured guest” due to its role in hosting several rounds of the historic talks in its capital since 2019, the Associated Press [AP] reported.

The Moscow meeting, the second since 2019, will also discuss ways to “reduce the level of violence and end the armed conflict in Afghanistan and help it develop as an independent, peaceful and self-sufficient state that would be free from terrorism and drug trafficking”, the AP quoted Zakharova as saying.

Moscow’s attempt at mediation comes as talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban remain at a stalemate. Washington and Kabul have been pressing for a ceasefire but the Taliban insists such a move will be negotiated as part of peace talks with the government.

The high-profile meeting is seen as Russia’s attempts to prove its political influence in the talks and its position as a mediator in the ongoing peace efforts.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, stated that the meeting “aims to give an impulse, an impetus so that substantive talks and not just contacts would begin in Doha.”

“We will discuss prospects for a settlement in Afghanistan and reaching solutions,” he said.

Read also: US proposes Afghanistan summit to push forward talks: reports

While the US has yet to confirm its attendance at the meeting, a State Department spokesperson said Washington held previous meetings with Moscow to address the talks, including scheduling the meeting.

Earlier this week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggested hosting a “senior-level” meeting in Istanbul to finalise the talks.

Meanwhile, the US Special Representative for the Afghan peace process Zalmay Khalilzad recently met with the Taliban in Qatar as well as delegations from the Afghan Government after a visit to Afghanistan.

Khalilzad carried a proposal to form an interim government, a suggestion that was also supported by Moscow.

Russia and Afghanistan fought a decade-long war from 1979 until 1989, which ended with the withdrawal of the Soviet troops after Moscow signed an accord with the US, Pakistan, and Afghanistan to pull out its forces.

Up to 100,000 troops controlled several areas of Afghanistan at the time, of which at least 14,500 were killed by the end of the war.

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