KABUL – The Afghanistan government said on Monday it will not attend peace talks with the Taliban in Russia, warning that such meetings could legitimize insurgents and their interests.
The two-day meeting, which begins in Moscow on Tuesday, will bring together Taliban representatives and some influential Afghan opposition leaders for peace discussions organized by Russia-based Afghans with the support of the Russian government.
The Chief Executive of the Afghan government, Abdullah Abdullah, cautiously criticized the Afghan politicians, who are expected to attend the meeting, and urged them not to ignore the role of his government in building peace in the war-torn country.
“They should not forget (...) if we ignore the role of the government, this would only help the Taliban to continue their obstinacy and tenacity in the peace process,” Abdullah told reporters in Kabul.
He said such meetings could help Taliban in its attempts to “create rifts and division” in the Afghan society and “then use it for their own interests.”
The so-called “intra-Afghan peace meeting” comes just days after the United States said it had made “significant” progress in ongoing talks with Taliban leaders in Qatar.
Former president Hamid Karzai, former National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar, a key challenger to President Ashraf Ghani in July presidential election, and over 40 other politicians and prominent public figures have been invited to participate in the meeting, several sources told EFE.
Abdullah urged the Afghan participants to be “careful and act wise” and stressed that any such exercise should be “led by the government” with participation of all Afghan political parties and movements.
On Sunday, Karzai in a statement said the Afghan delegation comprised of representative of political parties and movements of the country, who are participating on the invitation of the “Social Council of Russia-based Afghans.”
He said the meeting was the “first important step toward intra-Afghan peace talks” aimed to push for the “beginning of the all-inclusive intra-Afghan talks” and ceasefire between government and the Taliban.
Taliban spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, in an emailed statement confirmed that its 10-member delegation, led by former chief negotiator Sher Muhammad Abbas Stanekzai, would attend the meeting.
“The agenda of this conference is holding discussions about the issue of Afghanistan, declaration of policies and opening channels to reaching an understanding with non-government Afghan political groups,” Mujahid said.