Taliban representatives meet with opposition figures, rights activists, former president Hamid Karzai, in Russian capital, sidelining Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government, which has criticised the gathering.
The Taliban on Tuesday attended “intra-Afghan” talks in Moscow designed to bring together prominent Afghan figures, including former president Hamid Karzai, opposition figures and tribal elders, but no Kabul government officials.
The two-day meeting in the Russian capital is seen as another step in a process aimed at resolving Afghanistan’s 17-year war, a process that has accelerated since the appointment last September of US peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad.
Khalilzad has been holding separate negotiations with the Taliban even as he presses for a dialogue that would bring together all key Afghan players.
Karzai, along with Taliban representatives, and members of the Afghan diaspora arrived for the talks on Tuesday morning at the President Hotel in central Moscow.
Speaking to the Associated Press as she arrived, prominent female lawmaker and activist Fawzia Koofi said Afghan society had come a long way in recent decades and called on the Taliban to “adapt.”
“If the Taliban would like to be a part of the Afghan society, they need to adapt. So therefore I hope that they listen to the people of Afghanistan,” she said.
Koofi said she was one of two female delegates attending the talks and was keen for women’s voices to be heard.
“We have come a very long way and we don’t want to go back,” she said.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the conference was about “opening channels to reach an understanding with non-government Afghan political groups.”
He said the movement wanted to explain its policies towards an “enduring peace in the homeland and establishment of an intra-Afghan Islamic system of governance.”
But the meeting has sidelined Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government, which has criticised the gathering.
Ghani’s office said that Afghan politicians attending the gathering were doing so “in order to gain power.”
Ghani’s chief adviser, Fazel Fazly, tweeted that it was “regrettable.”
The Taliban have refused to talk to Ghani’s government, which they denounce as a US puppet.
Ghulam Jalal, head of Center for the Afghan Diasporas, said that the Taliban representatives were not willing to meet with Afghan government officials while there were still foreign forces in the country.
“We really wanted to have this meeting in Kabul first, but as you know many parties are not ready to come to Kabul under current circumstances,” Jalal said, explaining why the meeting was being held in Russia.
The 10-member Taliban delegation was being led by Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai.