Kabul was on Tuesday said to be considering an offer from Russia to host talks on the stalled Afghan peace process, two days after the leak of a letter from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to President Ashraf Ghani over the impasse.
Blinken’s letter had included an urgent proposal to help restart discussions between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
But Gran Hewad, Afghanistan’s foreign ministry spokesman, on Tuesday told Arab News: “We have received an invitation from the government of the Russian Federation addressed to the leadership of the government of Afghanistan for participation in this conference and are aware about their invitation of other national personalities and political leaders.
“We will soon begin consultations on what sort of decision we take on it. We appreciate the efforts of the Russian Federation’s government with regards to peace.”
Besides Taliban and Afghan government emissaries, the March 18 meeting in Russia will also host delegates from the Afghanistan High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), factional and influential leaders, and representatives from the US, China, and Pakistan.
Feraidoon Khawzoon, a spokesman for HCNR Chairman Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, told Arab News: “The meeting will be discussions on finding ways for resolving Afghanistan’s problem. The leadership of the HCNR have been consulting (among each other) about this invitation and will decide later on it.”
Officials in Ghani’s administration could not confirm if an official Afghan government representative would be attending the meeting. The Taliban were also unavailable for comment.
Russia’s offer to host the conference comes a week after US special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, shared a proposal with key Afghan leaders, including Ghani, for the formation of a participatory government – which would include Taliban members – as part of efforts to end Washington’s engagement in Afghanistan, the longest war in American history.
Khalilzad’s proposal was circulated ahead of a May 1 deadline for the complete withdrawal of US-led foreign troops from Afghanistan, based on a controversial accord signed between former American President Donald Trump’s administration and the Taliban more than a year ago.
Moscow, similar to Iran and Pakistan, has been pressing for the pullout of foreign forces from Afghanistan for years. Russia recently hosted two rounds of talks between the Taliban and influential national leaders, besides being a vocal supporter for forming a new government to replace Ghani, whose second term ends after four years.