Russia to host Taliban dialogue

Invites a group of Afghan politicians to Moscow for negotiations with insurgents

Russia has quietly invited a group of senior Afghan politicians to talks with the Taliban in Moscow, bypassing President Ashraf Ghani’s government in a move that has angered officials in Kabul who say it could muddle the U.S.-backed peace process.

The invitations, extended over the past two months by Russian diplomats in Kabul, were confirmed to Reuters by six of the eight leaders, who include former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, or their aides, and by other leading politicians with ties to the Afghan government.

Russia in August proposed holding multilateral peace talks in Moscow and invited 12 countries and the Taliban to attend a summit the following month.

But the meeting was postponed after Mr. Ghani rejected the invitation on the grounds that talks with the Taliban should be led by the Afghan government. The U.S. had also declined to attend.

Three senior Afghan officials said the government was unhappy that Moscow was pressing ahead with plans for talks.

Peace process

“We requested Russia to cancel the summit because talking to the Taliban at multiple forums will further complicate the peace process backed by the U.S., but they rejected the request,” said a senior Afghan official who has been holding discussions with Russia.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday that she hoped to be able to announce details of the conference “in the coming days”.

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