Taliban to visit Russia for Afghan peace talks

Moscow: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has announced that the members of the Taliban would visit Russia next month to discuss on a peace strategy in Afghanistan. “The initial response is positive – they plan to take part in this meeting. I hope it will be productive,” Lavrov was quoted by CNN as saying.

Although Russia does not share any border with Afghanistan, in recent times, Moscow has stepped up efforts to reach out to the Taliban, to enter into peace negotiations with the US-backed Afghan government. The group is banned in Russia. “We never concealed that we maintain contacts with the Taliban — it is part of Afghan society. We support these contacts, primarily in the interests of ensuring the safety of Russian citizens in Afghanistan, Russian institutions, but also to encourage the Taliban to abandon the armed struggle and enter into a nationwide dialogue with the government,” Lavrov added.

The announcement by Russia comes three days after Afghan president Ashraf Ghani announced a three-month conditional ceasefire. The military operations will, however, continue against the Taliban, until it announces a formal ceasefire. The group is yet to reciprocate to the offer.

Following the announcement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Washington is in favour of talks between Kabul and Taliban. Pompeo said, “We remain ready to support, facilitate, and participate in direct negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban. There are no obstacles to talks. It is time for peace.”

On Tuesday, several rockets landed in Kabul city close to the Presidential Palace following President Ghani’s Eid prayers. Earlier in June, Ghani had announced a week-long ceasefire on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr.

For years, Taliban militants in Afghanistan often use suicide bombers to create unrest in the region, claiming that their struggle is a holy war to impose Islamic rule.