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

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and participants of international talks on Afghanistan pose for

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and participants of international talks on Afghanistan pose for

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

"Our agreement with the Russians is that this meeting should lead to direct talks between us (Afghan government) and the Taliban, if it does not happen like this, then this will reflect the intention of the Taliban and this means they (Taliban) are not prepared for peace", MoFA spokesperson Sibghat Ahmadi was quoted in local reports.

HPC officials said they would send a delegation, led by Hajji Deen Mohammad, the deputy head of the peace council but that no talks would be held with the Taliban.

India on Thursday said it would participate, at a "non-official level", in the Moscow format meeting on Afghanistan, which will be attended by a Taliban delegation.

According to the Russian foreign ministry, invitations to take part in the event had been sent to Afghanistan, India, Iran, China, Pakistan, the U.S. and some other countries.

India will not be holding talks with the Taliban, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) clarified in a press briefing on Friday.

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, invitations to take part in the event had been sent to Afghanistan, India, Iran, China, Pakistan, the USA and some other countries. Newly appointed United States 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.

"Our participation at the meeting will be at the non-official level". Regional players like Pakistan, China and Iran are among the participants of the meeting hosted by Russian Federation.

The US Embassy in Moscow has sent a diplomat to observe Friday's discussions at the meeting which is being attended by representatives from Iran, China, Pakistan and other countries.

According to the Russian foreign ministry, the main issue on the agenda is the coordination of regional efforts to assist the process of national reconciliation, in the interest of restoring peace in Afghanistan.

The second round, which was to be held on September 4 this year, was postponed.

"On his last trip to the region in October, Special Representative Khalilzad called on the Afghan Government and the Taliban to organise authoritative negotiating teams, and has been encouraged to see that both parties are taking steps in that direction", the State Department said in a statement.

A USA government watchdog last week said Kabul´s control of Afghanistan had slipped in recent months as local security forces suffered record casualties while making minimal or no progress against the Taliban.

The Afghan foreign ministry has emphasised that the council does not represent the Afghan government at the meeting, however.

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