Summit kicks off in Moscow regarding Afghan peace process

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The US and Taliban did actually engage in direct talks recently, Stanikzai said, hailing it as a positive sign.

Russian Federation is challenging the U.S.by hosting the Taliban at a Moscow peace conference in the latest source of friction between the two former Cold War foes.

The Moscow meeting will examine ways to "initiate direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban", a spokesman for the High Peace Council, Sayed Ehsan Tahiri, said by phone.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani earlier chose to send a non-official delegation from the High Peace Council, including its deputy heads Haji Deen Mohammad and Habiba Surabi.

On Tuesday, the Taliban also confirmed it would send a delegation to the meeting.

Informal contacts between the Taliban and members of Afghanistan's Peace Council have taken place at various forums in the past.

Russia's foreign ministry touted the attendance of the Taliban, who sent a five-person delegation to Moscow from their political office in Doha, as unprecedented for an global conference aimed at peace in Afghanistan, although the meeting produced few concrete results.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, second right, arrives to attend a conference on Afghanistan bringing together representatives of the Afghan authorities and the Taliban in Moscow, Russia, Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. However, an Afghan foreign ministry official in response to an email said Kabul "will not" be sending a delegation to the Moscow talks.

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She emphasized the conference is exclusively aimed at facilitating a "conducive atmosphere for bilateral or multilateral dialogue formats" to promote a negotiated solution to the Afghan problem as soon as possible.

China, Pakistan, Iran, India, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are among other participants.

Beyond the political outreach, US military officials have recently accused Russian Federation of supplying the Taliban with weapons. This week, the White House's special representative for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, is touring the region, tasked with pressing the Taliban and the government to form negotiating teams.

"This conference is not about holding negotiations with any party whatsoever - rather it is about finding a peaceful solution to the issue of Afghanistan", he added. "The Islamic Emirate [the Taliban] will also give a detailed speech and clarify its views and policy about all aspects of the issue, including restoring peace and security".

They will not hold "any sort of negotiations" with the delegation of Kabul administration, he said.

Ghani offered in February to talk to the Taliban without pre-conditions but the insurgents, who regard his government as a foreign-controlled regime, have refused, saying they will deal only with the United States. "Our participation at the meeting will be at the non-official level", said Kumar, as he announced a major foreign policy shift in India's stand vis-a-vis the Taliban.

Delegations from twelve countries have reportedly been invited including the delegation from Taliban's political office in Qatar. It also said that it attended the conference in a "non-official" capacity in a bid to bring back peace in Afghanistan.

US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells was in Islamabad from November 6-7 for talks on Afghanistan and terror financing.

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