Russia Challenges US in Hosting Taliban at Afghan Talks

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"We said that we will be participating in a meeting on Afghanistan which is hosted by Russian Federation".

As well as the five-member Taliban delegation, Russian Federation brought to the meeting several senior Afghan political figures, including some who have clashed with Ghani in the past.

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Moscow on Friday hosted worldwide talks on Afghanistan aimed at kickstarting direct negotiations between Kabul and the Taliban militant group, both of whom sent delegations.

Ghani likely agreed to participate this time "because he recognized the significance of this meeting, even though it won't result in anything substantive", said Michael Kugelman, a senior associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington.

The Geneva conference will follow a 12-nation meeting in Moscow on Friday.

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"The meeting will discuss the end of American invasion, identify problems and deliberate on regional peace", their statement read.

"And we've been clear that no government, including Russian Federation, can be a substitute for the Afghan government in direct negotiations with the Taliban", Palladino said.

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. India will be participating in the Moscow conference but will not be indulging in any direct talks with the Taliban.

The meeting on Friday demonstrated Moscow's renewed aspirations in Afghanistan nearly 30 years after the Soviet Union withdrew its battered forces.

The Afghan foreign ministry emphasised that the council did not represent the Afghan government at the meeting, however, but was acting as a "national" non-government institution.

Mujahid defended the Taliban's participation in Moscow meeting, saying it will not be chaired or co-chaired by the Kabul government unlike previous such global gatherings.

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The Taliban has confirmed that it will send representatives to Moscow.

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.

Shaheen also denied accusations by the US military that Russian Federation has supplied weapons to the Taliban, echoing a similar denial by Moscow.

A five-member delegation from the Qatar-based "political office" of the Taliban will take part in Friday's meeting.

Khalilzad met Taliban leaders in Qatar last month as part of efforts to find a way to end the 17-year-long war in Afghanistan, according to the Islamist group that was ousted from power by US -led forces in 2001. The latest talks occurred last month where newly appointed special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalamay Khalilzad, led the USA team.

They will not hold "any sort of negotiations" with the delegation of Kabul administration, he said.

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But Russia is also concerned a USA failure in Afghanistan will see it become a renewed source of terrorism, and is already seeking to block the flow of narcotics from the country.

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