Moscow [Russia]: The Taliban on Thursday said that “decent progress” was made by the group with Kabul government officials during peace talks held here with the aim to end the 18-year long war in Afghanistan.
The group, however, stated that there had been no breakthrough and that further talks would be needed, Al Jazeera reported, quoting a Taliban official who had attended the talks.
The Taliban delegation, led by chief negotiator Mullah Baradar Akhund, met Afghan politicians, including senior regional leaders and candidates, planning to challenge President Ashraf Ghani in this year’s presidential election, as diplomatic efforts to end the Afghan war gather pace.
In addition, the Taliban insisted that international forces must leave Afghanistan for peace to be agreed.
“The Islamic Emirate wants peace but the first step is to remove obstacles to peace and end the occupation of Afghanistan,” Baradar was quoted as saying.
The Taliban, overthrown by the US-backed forces weeks after the September 11, 2001 attacks, refers to the country as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the meeting in Moscow was opened on Tuesday by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who said that his country sees peace as the only possible scenario of settlement in Afghanistan.
Speaking on the sidelines of the conference, Taliban delegates reiterated their position that no ceasefire could be possible while foreign forces remained inside Afghanistan.
Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, Taliban’s political chief, was quoted as saying that “no other option” was possible.
Taliban officials have been talking to the US diplomats for months about the terms of withdrawal of more than 23,000 US and NATO coalition troops from Afghanistan.
They have also reached a draft agreement on some issues, but no new date for the next round of talks has been set and many obstacles remain.
The Taliban’s refusal to deal directly with Ghani’s government in Kabul, which the group dismisses as a “puppet” regime, remains one of the key issues.