Afghan peace settlement meeting starts in Moscow

Turkey sends its representatives to meeting in Russian capital attended by China, US, Pakistan, Afghan parties, and Qatar

Afghan peace settlement meeting starts in Moscow

Moscow on Thursday is hosting a new meeting on Afghan peace with the participation of China, the US, Pakistan, Afghan parties, and Qatar as an honorary guest.

Turkey has sent its representative to the meeting as well; Ambassador Hakan Tekin, director general for South Asia at the Turkish Foreign Ministry, is attending the meeting.

The Kabul side is represented by a delegation of the High Council for National Reconciliation, which is headed by its chairman Abdullah Abdullah.

Also joining the meeting is the 10-people Taliban delegation headed by Abdul Ghani Baradar, the group’s deputy leader.

Initially, it was planned as a meeting of troika on the Afghan reconciliation, which includes Russia, China and the US. The trio also invited Pakistan "as a player having influence on both sides."

Later Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov invited Qatar – a country that served as a mediator between the warring Afghan sides for quite a long time, and it also hosted several rounds of the talks between the US and the Taliban on the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

According to Lavrov, the Moscow meeting was organized "to help solve the problems that arose in the Doha negotiations and to encourage the parties to be more cooperative through informal, free discussions, and confidential conversations."

Currently the Afghan sides face a snag provoked by the US policy change on Afghanistan.

On Feb. 29, 2020, the Taliban signed an agreement with the US, which suggests the withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan within 14 months. The period expires on May 1.

However, new US President Joe Biden has a different view on the Afghan crisis and does not hurry to pull out the US troops.

In an interview with the public TV channel ABC, Biden said the withdrawal is possible, but difficult to implement.

If the US fails to fulfill their part of the agreement, it can lead to a new crisis, Andrey Serenko, Russian political expert on Afghanistan, told Anadolu Agency.

"Currently the sides are confused and lost, they don't know what to expect and they don't know to what to prepare. If the US doesn't withdraw its troops, the Taliban most probably will start a new offensive. Who will be the principal target – the Afghan or US troops – has not been clear so far. The Afghan army is also preparing to resume hostilities," Serenko said.

He also criticized Russia for not inviting India to the meeting, stressing that India is a very influential stakeholder and the meeting will not be "inclusive" without it.

"In this sense, we can expect the meeting in Istanbul, scheduled for March 27, will be more effective and fruitful," Serenko said.

The US invaded Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and the 19 years of US involvement plus related conflicts have cost the lives of over 100,000 civilians and forced millions to flee their homes. The UN has repeatedly urged that opportunities for peace in the region should be seized.