Talks on Afghanistan, never said with Taliban, MEA spokesperson clarifies


Ministry of External Affairs' official spokesperson, Raveesh Kumar said, "Our participation at the meeting will be at the non-official level".

Analysts have said that the roles of Pakistan and the USA hold the key to peace in Afghanistan.

"India supports all efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan that will preserve unity and plurality, and bring security, stability and prosperity to the country", Kumar said.

"The United States believes that all countries should support direct dialogue between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban to reach an end to the war and we have been clear that no government, including Russian Federation, can be a substitute for the Afghan government in direct negotiations with the Taliban".

A joint statement issued following the summit said that both India and Russian Federation supported the Afghan government's efforts towards the realization of an Afghan-led, and Afghan-owned national peace reconciliation process.

"This conference was not about direct talks", Taliban spokesman Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai told journalists in translated comments quoted by Interfax news agency.

This is the first time that a Taliban delegation is taking part in such high-level worldwide meeting, says Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman. "We highly regard Indian support in the peace process in Afghanistan and welcome Indian readiness and that of other partner countries in the Moscow format", the Russian Embassy said in a statement on Thursday.

The talks, known as the "Moscow format" will include a "high-level" delegation from the Taliban as well as a delegation of Afghanistan's "High Peace Council", along with twelve countries, and will mark the first time an Indian delegation has been present at the table in talks with the Taliban representatives based in Doha.

Russia, which backs Taliban demands for a pullout of American forces, invited regional powers including Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan to the talks as well as the U.S. Ghani opposed the September meeting in a call to Lavrov, demanding that any peace moves be Afghan-led.

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.

He also shared the demands of Taliban for reconciliation which included establishment of environment of trust, removal of US sanctions on Taliban, specifying a safe zone for peace talks, opening of a formal office for Taliban, global community's guarantee of peace talks, and release of prisoners.

The Taliban delegation reiterated its demand for the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan where they support the Kabul government. Regional players like Pakistan, China and Iran are among the participants of the meeting hosted by Russian Federation.

The meeting was supposed to take place on September 4, however, it was postponed at the last moment after the Afghan Government pulled out citing that the Taliban had "disrespected internationally-sanctioned principles and rejected the message of peace and direct negotiations".

The Afghan foreign ministry emphasised that the council did not represent the Afghan government at the meeting, however, but was acting as a "national" non-government institution. "But we didn't say that there will be any talks with the Taliban", he said.