India to participate in Friday's Moscow talks with Taliban

The MEA spokesperson said India will support any effort to continue the peace process consistent with the policy on Afghanistan - which is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled and with participation of the Afghanistan government.

"Our agreement with the Russians is that this meeting should lead to direct talks between us (Afghan government) and the Taliban, if it does not happen like this, then this will reflect the intention of the Taliban and this means they (Taliban) are not prepared for peace", MoFA spokesperson Sibghat Ahmadi was quoted in local reports.

The Afghan delegation is made up of four representatives of the High Peace Council, a government body responsible for reconciliation efforts with the militants, spokesman Sayed Ihsan Taheri said.

For the first time, India will be talking to the Taliban but in a "non official" capacity during a multilateral meeting in Moscow on Friday.

The USA which is holding separate talks with Taliban under the Doha process is sending observer to the Moscow format meet. MEA also announced that PM Narendra Modi will attend the swearing-in ceremony of Maldivian president-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih next week.

"It was the considered decision on the government of India that we will participate on a non-official level", he said refusing to divulge more information. "This will be assessed at the conference, we hope to convey good news to the people of Afghanistan about direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in the near future", said HPC spokesman Sayed Ehsan Tahiri. The Taliban will also be part of the meeting.

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The conference organised by Russian Federation was attended by representatives of Afghanistan as well as from several other countries including the US, Pakistan and China.

"Concerned with unabated violence, the (two) sides resolved to work through the Moscow Format, SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) Contact Group on Afghanistan, and all other recognised formats for an early resolution to the conflict in Afghanistan", the statement said.

"Where did we say that there will be talks with the Taliban?"

"The meeting will discuss the end of the American invasion, identify problems and deliberate on regional peace", Mujahid said in a brief statement.

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

The first round of the Moscow format was held on April 14 previous year, when India was represented by Mittal, along with deputy foreign ministers and senior officials from Afghanistan, China, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. But this time, it has managed to carefully balance Russian and U.S. interests, as it is sending the Afghan High Peace Council's representatives, instead of its foreign ministry representatives.

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