Russia opened meetings with top diplomats from Afghanistan, China, and several Central Asian countries in talks that are aimed at bringing peace to Afghanistan but are being boycotted by the United States.
The Foreign Ministry said in a statement April 14 that India, Iran, and Pakistan were also attending the Moscow talks. The statement urged the Taliban to stop fighting and engage in a direct dialogue with the Afghan government.
Russia had invited Washington to join the consultations but it refused, saying the goal was unclear.
The purpose "seemed to be a unilateral Russian attempt to assert influence in the region," acting U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said on the eve of the talks.
"We do generally support regional efforts that work with the Afghan government to build support for a peaceful outcome in Afghanistan, and I think we -- going forward, we do plan to work with Russia and other key regional stakeholders to enhance dialogue on Afghanistan," Toner said.
Moscow hosted similar consultations in December between diplomats from Russia, Pakistan, and China to discuss the start of a national reconciliation process. The format was expanded in mid-February to involve Afghanistan, Iran, and India.