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Following US decision not to participate in Afghan peace talks slated to be held in the first week of September in Moscow, Afghanistan government has also announced for not participating in the multilateral talks where 12 countries were invited. However, Taliban have agreed to participate in the talks.

According to Kabul based Tolo News network, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) on Wednesday said the Afghan government will not participate in the upcoming peace meeting. The ministry said government firmly believes in intra-Afghan dialogues. Kabul government has not received a formal invitation to attend the talks so far.

Sibghat Ahmadi, the deputy spokesman of Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, “Any regional consensus about Pakistan needs to be structured in axis of the Afghan government. The peace process definitely needs to be carried out under the leadership of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. We will not participate in the Moscow talks.”

Afghanistan Toes US Decision, Not To Participate Moscow TalksHowever, a former Taliban political figure Sayed Akbar Agha said Taliban will attend the meeting and will start discussions on the prospects of peace in Afghanistan with countries in the region.

Agha further said, “Taliban has agreed on the Moscow talks and they will attend it. These talks are related to Asia. Foreign forces have come to Asian countries and there are concerns among these countries about it. All these countries want foreign forces to withdraw from Afghanistan.”

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There are reports that Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, head of Taliban’s political office, will lead the Taliban’s delegation in the talks.

Meanwhile AP reports from Washington that US has rejected an invitation to join Russia led talks on Afghanistan because they are “unlikely to help bring peace”. However, State Department spokesman said Wednesday that Trump administration was prepared to appoint a diplomatic veteran as a new special envoy for Afghanistan.

The State Department official, who was not authorised to be quoted, said that as a matter of principle, the US supports Afghan-led efforts to advance a peace settlement. Based on the previous Russia-led meetings on Afghanistan, the Moscow talks are “unlikely to yield any progress toward that end”.

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But, the report said that a perception exists that taking the Afghan peace talks to different venues in the west and east will complicate the reconciliation process in the country.

Meantime, Mohammadullah Haidari, Afghanistan’s former ambassador to Syria said, “Today the Taliban are ready to talk with the US and also they are ready to talk with Russia, but those who claim to be Afghans and want to bring peace in Afghanistan or talk about the peace process should talk to Afghans. However, they are not ready to talk with the legitimate government of Afghanistan.”

Moreover, there are reports that Alice Wells, the US’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs has met top Taliban officials in Doha.

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Meanwhile, Reuters, quoted an Afghan official working with foreign ministry saying that Afghan government had “decided against attending the Moscow conference” and that they will “hold direct talks” with the Taliban, without involving foreign powers.

Afghan reaction came a day after Russian foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted, by Interfax news agency, saying that Taliban plans to take part in the 4 September talks in Russia’s capital Moscow. Taliban sources have also confirmed to Aljazeera about its participation in the Moscow talks.

Russia has invited 12 countries, including US, to the multilateral peace talks, but Washington has declined the invitation. Foreign Ministry in Moscow said on Wednesday it regretted the US decision.

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US also did not participate in the international talks on Afghanistan held in April last year in Moscow.

On Monday, Zamir Kabulov, a Russian foreign ministry official, was cited by Interfax as saying that Moscow has invited the Taliban, which is banned in Russia and considered a terrorist organisation. Kabulov is Russian President’s special envoy to Afghanistan who also served as ambassador in Afghanistan, Iraq and UN.

According to RIA news agency, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Moscow Abdul Kayum Kuchai, had welcomed the Taliban’s involvement in the talks.

There are reports that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo intends to appoint Zalmay Khalilzad, former US ambassador to Afghanistan, as special envoy, to deal with the Afghan-Taliban peace process.

Aljazeera reports that a Western diplomat based in Kabul has said that Russia was seeking to increase its influence and improve its image in Afghanistan by inviting Taliban leaders for talks.

Afghanistan Toes US Decision, Not To Participate Moscow TalksIn February this year, the Afghan Taliban had called for direct talks with the US to take place in its political office in Doha, the capital of Qatar. A Senior Taliban official based in Doha told Aljazeera that the group invites US officials to its political office in Qatar to discuss a “peaceful solution” to end the bloodshed in Afghanistan.

According to Wikipedia, senior Taliban leaders are currently stationed in Doha. The original purpose of the Taliban leaders’ presence in Qatar was to open an office that would facilitate reconciliation between members of the Taliban, Afghanistan, the US and other countries. However, shortly after the opening of the Taliban office in 2013, the office was closed by the Qatari government.

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