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Taliban to attend Afghan peace talks in Moscow, Russia says

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (U.S. State Department/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Representatives of the Afghan Taliban plan to take part in peace talks in Moscow next month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said.

Lavrov told reporters in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on August 21 that Russia had invited the Taliban to the meeting, scheduled for September 4, adding that “the initial reaction has been positive.”

“I hope it [the meeting] will be productive,” Lavrov also said, according to an official transcript.

There was no immediate confirmation from the Taliban that it had accepted the offer.

Abdul Kayum Kuchai, Afghanistan’s ambassador in Moscow, welcomed the Taliban’s involvement in the talks, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Russia had extended invitations to a dozen countries, including the United States, to the talks.

The statement added that Moscow supported the Afghan government’s offer of a three-month cease-fire starting on August 20, and regretted that the Taliban, which is banned in Russia and considered a terrorist organization, rejected the offer.

Russia held talks on Afghanistan in April last year, but the United States did not attend.

And Interfax news agency quoted an unidentified U.S. State Department spokesperson as saying the United States “does not intend to participate” in the planned meeting in September.

“Based on the previous meetings in the Moscow Format, we believe this initiative is unlikely to yield any progress toward that end,” the spokesperson added.

The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO combat troops in 2014.

Taliban leaders have ignored an offer by the Afghan government of direct peace negotiations, calling instead for direct talks with the United States.