The Taliban will send representatives to multilateral talks in Russia on war-torn Afghanistan this month, the militant group said, as the international community ratchets up efforts to end the 17-year conflict.
Moscow announced Saturday it would host the meeting on November 9 to discuss ways to kickstart peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban.
In a statement posted on social media on Tuesday, November 6 the Taliban said it would dispatch “high-ranking” representatives from its political office in Qatar.
“This conference is not about negotiating with any particular side, rather it is a conference about holding comprehensive discussions on finding a peaceful solution to the Afghan quandary and ending the American occupation,” Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid said.
— Zabihullah (ذبیح الله م ) (@Zabihullah_4) November 6, 2018
The Taliban last month appointed five former Guantanamo Bay detainees, who had been swapped for U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl in 2014, to its political office.
They have the authorization to “talk about peace”, a senior Taliban official told AFP.
The confirmation comes a day after Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, a government body responsible for reconciliation efforts with the militants, said it would send a delegation.
Moscow has also invited representatives from the United States as well as India, Iran, China, Pakistan and five former Soviet republics in Central Asia.
Pakistan, which has long been accused of providing support to the Afghan Taliban, would “definitely” attend, foreign ministry spokesperson Muhammad Faisal told AFP.
The U.S. embassy in Kabul did not respond to an AFP request for comment.
The Moscow meeting was initially scheduled to take place in September, but was postponed after Kabul insisted that the process should be Afghan-led.
The meeting comes at a sensitive time.
Newly appointed U.S. 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.
Last month, Khalilzad met a Taliban delegation in Qatar, the group said in the first official confirmation of talks between the two sides.
The U.S. government watchdog SIGAR said last week that 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.
With reporting from AFP