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Russia Says Taliban Should Be Part Of Interim Afghan Government

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova (file photo)
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova (file photo)

Russia says the Taliban should be included in any interim Afghan government as Moscow prepares to host a conference next week that is meant to move forward the peace process in the conflict-wracked country.

The statement by Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova came on March 12, hours after Turkey also announced its intention to host Afghan peace talks in Istanbul next month.

Moscow has invited several regional players, including representatives of the militants for the March 18 conference, which it said is meant to bring new life into stuttering peace talks held in Qatar between the Taliban and Kabul. However, it was unclear if the United States would attend.

"The formation of an interim coalition government should be decided by the Afghans themselves during national reconciliation talks," Zakharova told a news briefing.

"At the same time we have noted that the formation of an interim, inclusive administration would be a logical solution to the problem of integrating the Taliban into Afghanistan's peaceful political life."

Meanwhile, in Ankara, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey had decided to hold the conference in Istanbul at the request of both the Taliban and the Kabul government.

"Both the Taliban and the negotiation delegation, meaning the government side, has asked us to host such a meeting before," Cavusoglu said, without giving a specific date for the meeting.

He added that Turkey considers itself "one of the most-important actors in Afghanistan" and intends to appoint a special envoy to the peace process.

Peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government resumed last month in Qatar after a delay of more than a month amid escalating violence in the war-torn country.

The diplomatic push comes as U.S. President Joe Biden is completing a review of an agreement with the Taliban negotiated by former president Donald Trump's administration to remove the final U.S. troops from the country by May.

Under the latest U.S.-drafted peace plan, the current Afghan government should be replaced with an interim administration until a new constitution is agreed and elections held, but Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has refused to step down in favor of a transitional government.

The U.S. proposal suggests that, under an interim government, the Afghan parliament could either be expanded to include members of the Taliban or suspended until after an election.

Reuters has quoted an anonymous source close to the Taliban as saying that the militants will send a delegation of four or five members to Moscow from its political office in Qatar.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and AP
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