Islamabad – Staff Reporter:
Pakistan will send a representative to Moscow for a March 18 ‘peace conference’ on Afghanistan where Afghan and Taliban leaders as well as representatives from China and the United States will be present, Russian newswire TASS has reported.
The TASS report comes after the United States shared with Afghan officials, Taliban leaders and others a draft peace plan calling for replacing the government with a power-sharing interim administration pending elections under a new constitution.
The US proposal is intended to jump-start stalled talks in Doha between the Taliban and a team that includes Afghan officials on a political settlement to decades of conflict.
Moscow has also advocated a transitional power-sharing government as part of a peace deal. Russia’s special representative on Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, said last month that Moscow was ready to host intra-Afghan peace talks to break the stalemate in Doha.
“Afghan politicians, including President Ashraf Ghani and Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) Abdullah Abdullah, have been invited to attend a peace conference on Afghanistan in Moscow on March 18,” HCNR Spokesman Faraidoon Khawzon told Russian media, adding that Taliban leaders were also invited to Moscow.
“The meeting will aim to breathe a new life into the Afghanistan talks in Doha, Qatar, and put an end to the long-standing conflict in the country,” TASS said. “The meeting had been agreed with the US … China, the US and Pakistan will field their representatives to the conference.”
The US State Department did not confirm American attendance at the March 18 meeting to Reuters.
A State Department spokesperson noted that, “The United States has met in the past with Russia in support of the Afghanistan peace process. Recently we have discussed scheduling a meeting, but the United States has nothing to confirm at this time.”
But TASS also quoted presidential envoy for Afghanistan Kabulov as saying the United States, China, Pakistan, the Afghan government and the Taliban had been invited to attend the meeting.
“It is not even a conference, it is consultations of the expanded trio: Russia, the US, China and Pakistan,” Kabulov said. “Yes, we have invited [Afghan] government representatives, Afghan statesmen and the Taliban delegation as well.”
Kabulov had visited Pakistan last month to discuss Moscow’s plan to hold the peace conference.
“The foreign minister underlined the importance of regional consultations and appreciated the role of the four-party talks in support of the Afghan peace process,” the Pakistani foreign office had said about Kabulov’s visit.