India to join talks with Afghan Taliban at 'non-official level'

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The Moscow meetings ended without the sides agreeing on a path to direct dialogue, the delegations from the Taliban and Kabul´s High Peace Council said.

Newly appointed USA peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been trying to convince the Taliban to agree to negotiate an end to the war and there are fears the Russian meeting could derail those efforts.

The Taliban said they would continue direct negotiations with Washington, which have been spearheaded by the U.S. diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad. The U.S., which has accused Russian Federation of arming the Taliban, has poured more troops into Afghanistan and waged a series of air strikes as it seeks to regain the military edge.

The Taliban has refused direct talks with the Afghan government, which it views as a US puppet, saying it will only negotiate the end of the 17-year war directly with Washington.

"Russia supports the preservation of a united and indivisible Afghanistan in which all ethnic groups populating the country could live peacefully and happily", Lavrov said at the meeting, according to Russia's state-run news agency TASS.

The US embassy in Moscow was sending a representative to observe the discussions. Taliban has sent five representatives but has made it clear that "they will not hold any sort of negotiations" with the delegation of Kabul administration.

"India's consistent policy has been that such efforts should be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan-controlled and with participation of the government of Afghanistan".

"We welcome Indian as well as other respected countries' participation in the Moscow format talks".

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As well as the five-member Taliban delegation, Russian Federation brought to the meeting several senior Afghan political figures, including some who have clashed with Ghani in the past.

Pakistan confirmed on Thursday the US -led peace initiative prompted Islamabad to release a senior jailed Taliban leader last month.

Meanwhile, Taliban representatives in Qatar held a preliminary meeting with U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad last month to discuss the group's conditions to end the 17-year war.

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.

Reportedly, this is the second time that Russian Federation is trying to bring regional powers together in an attempt to bring stability and peace in the war-torn nation of Afghanistan.

Newly appointed USA peace envoy Khalilzad has been trying to convince the Taliban to agree to negotiate an end to the war and there are fears the Russian meeting could derail those efforts.

Russian media meanwhile said the Russian Foreign Ministry had sent invitations to Afghanistan, India, Iran, China, Pakistan, the United States and other countries.

The statement said that on his last trip to the region in October, Khalilzad called on the Afghan Government and the Taliban to organize authoritative negotiating teams, and has been encouraged to see that both parties are taking steps in that direction. New Delhi has always maintained that it will engage with the elected government of Afghanistan, and participating in the meeting would have given legitimacy to the Taliban.

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