The bumpy road to peace in Afghanistan

Russia will host conference on Afghan peace

Russia will host a multilateral conference on the Afghan peace process. The conference is scheduled to take place in coming Thursday, March 18, in Moscow, the capital of Russia, the office of the Afghan High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) said today, Tuesday, March 09.

The Afghan leaders, political leaders, Taliban representatives, and diplomats from the regional countries and the US have been invited to attend the coming Moscow conference.

In a video released today, March 09, Faraidoon Khwazoon, the HCNR spokesperson, said that Russia has invited the leadership of the Afghan government, the HCNR Chairman Abdullah Abdullah, Taliban leaders, some regional countries, and the United States to attend the conference.

According to the official invitation letter, two representatives from the Afghan government, two representatives from the HCNR, five Taliban representatives, six or seven representatives from Afghan political parties are invited to attend the meeting. As stated in the invitation, the meeting is aimed at accelerating the intra-Afghan peace talks.

Moscow has so far hosted two meetings on the Afghan peace process which were attended by some Afghan political figures and Taliban representatives.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, March 08, the Afghan foreign minister, Mohammad Haneef Atmar, said that consultations were underway with Moscow on holding a “3+2” meeting in support of the Afghan peace process.

Mohammad Karim Khalili, leader of Hezb-e-Wahdat Islami, also confirmed that he was officially invited to attend the conference.

Hosted by the Gulf State of Qatar, the intra-Afghan talks began on September 12, 2020. For the first time in 19 years, the Afghan government and the Taliban representatives sat face to face to discuss a power-sharing deal.

But the progress is slow.

Reports suggest that UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Deborah Lyons arrived in Qatar on Tuesday to push the Taliban representatives to accelerate peace talks and agree to a ceasefire.

The visit comes at a time when the US is seeking to push the Afghan warring parties to accelerate the already stalled Doha talks.

A letter sent by the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to President Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah suggests that the United States is pushing the two negotiating sides to accelerate the peace process and hold talks at a higher level in Ankara, the capital of Turkey.

The letter, however, provoked serious criticisms in Afghanistan. The First Vice President Amrullah Saleh reacted against the tone of the letter. In response to Blinken’s letter, Saleh said in a serious tone that the Afghan government will not accept what he described as a “dictating peace” under any circumstances.