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Taliban, Afghan officials to meet in Moscow for peace talks

Taliban, Afghan officials to meet in Moscow for peace talks

Kabul [Afghanistan]: A delegation of Taliban officials is set to attend a two-day meeting with Afghan politicians in Moscow this week, officials confirmed on Monday, as fighting continues to rage in Afghanistan amid troubled peace talks between the United States and the militants.

In a statement, the Taliban said that the group is to attend a conference marking 100 years of diplomatic relations between Afghanistan and Russia on May 28, followed by discussions with Afghan politicians about the future of the country on May 29.

The 14-member Taliban delegation is led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, in what will be his first international trip since being freed from a Pakistani prison last October.

Meanwhile, among the Afghan politicians, former President Hamid Karzai and chairman of the High Peace Council (HPC) Mohammad Karim Khalili are expected to participate in Tuesday’s meeting that focuses on ending the 18-year long war in Afghanistan.

A spokesman for the Afghan president’s office told Al Jazeera that the Afghan ambassador in Moscow would also attend Tuesday’s ceremony but it was unclear whether he would meet the Taliban delegation.

The Taliban, which has been in peace negotiations with Washington since last year, has repeatedly refused to meet President Ashraf Ghani’s government, calling it a “puppet” of the West.

An “intra-Afghan dialogue” that was to be held in Doha in April was cancelled after the Taliban objected to a new delegation of Afghan officials selected to attend the talks”.

After six rounds of talks between the US and the Taliban in Doha ended earlier this month, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, said that “faster progress” was needed as “the conflict rages” and “innocent people die”.

The Taliban and the Afghan government have said that they have agreed a “draft framework” on an agreement for the US troop withdrawal and a guarantee that the Taliban would not harbour “terrorist” groups or allow them to use Afghanistan as a staging ground for global attacks.

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