By Baber Khan Sahel
Kabul, Mar 17 (efe-epa).- With their fingers crossed, the war-battered Afghans hope that a Russia-sponsored summit on Thursday will help restart the stalled intra-Afgan peace talks in Doha to end decades of conflict in the country.
Representatives of the Taliban and the Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani are attending the Moscow conference, the latest in a series of such meetings called to restart the stalled Afghan talks that began in Doha last September.
Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan’s chief peace negotiator, heads the government delegation in Moscow.
In a statement before leaving for Russia on Wednesday, Abdullah said he was looking forward to a “successful conference and exchange of views with the Taliban delegation and the host country.”
“The conference focuses on ways to boost the intra-Afghan talks in Doha, reducing the violence and ending the conflict in Afghanistan,” he said.
The participants of the Moscow talks are likely to discuss the ways to develop Afghanistan as an independent, peaceful and self-sufficient state free from terrorism and drug-related crimes.
The next in the series of such conferences will be in Turkey in April.
The meetings are part of the international efforts to speed up the stalled intra-Afghan peace talks in Doha, which are going on for the past six months in Qatar without any significant progress.
Najia Anwari, a spokesperson for the Afghan Peace Ministry, who is in Doha as part of the government negotiation team for talks with the Taliban, told EFE that the meetings in Moscow and Turkey could strengthen the capacity of the Doha peace process for “a lasting and dignified peace in Afghanistan.”
“The negotiations in Doha of Qatar are still underway and going on between the government and Taliban negotiation teams,” she said, even as the talks have achieved little in the past three months.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told EFE that a 10-member delegation of the group was already on their way to Moscow.
Mullah Baradar Akhund, who heads the Taliban political office in Qatar, leads the Taliban delegation.
Mujahid said the Moscow conference would “provide an opportunity to all sides to express their thoughts and opinions” on the intra-Afghan peace process.
He said there would be “no decision taken in Moscow.”
“Such meetings and visits are vital for confidence, trust building and can help the sides to understand each other’s views and we consider it a helpful step.”
However, analysts believe the Moscow meeting is an opportunity to bring the warring parties closer toward a political settlement.
“I don’t think it will be a decision making conference, but still the Moscow meeting is a good step to bring Afghan sides closer to narrow down their differences,” political analyst Safiullah Mullakhil told Efe.
“The Moscow conference can play a key role to coordinate between the government and Taliban for the upcoming Turkey conference as well,” said Mullakhil, a member of a Kabul-based think-tank.
The conference to be held in Turkey was suggested by United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken as part of a four-point plan he wrote to President Ashraf Ghani two weeks back.