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Taliban meets Russian envoy in Moscow after US talks collapse

Russia's Special Representative for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov. (Patrick Tsui/FCO/Flickr)
September 14, 2019

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

A team of Taliban negotiators from the militant group’s Qatar office is in Moscow for talks with Russian officials, just days after U.S. President Donald Trump announced that peace talks with U.S. officials have collapsed.

TASS quotes Mohammad Sohail Shaheen, the spokesman for the Taliban’s Qatar office, as saying that the Taliban delegation had met with Russia’s special envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, on September 13.

RFE/RL has independently confirmed that the Taliban delegation was in Moscow on September 13.

Shaheen was quoted by TASS as saying that the Taliban’s talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy had focused on “the recent developments regarding the peace process in Afghanistan.”

Meanwhile, the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) has reported that the Taliban delegation in Moscow was headed by Sher Muhammad Abbas Stanikzai, the head of Taliban’s negotiation team in Qatar.

It said the delegation also included Shaheen and Qari Din Muhammad Hanif.

AIP reported that the Taliban delegation was considering a possible trip to China after it concludes its visit in Moscow, but it said a final decision on going China had not been reached by the Taliban delegates.

Moscow has hosted two previous rounds of talks in 2019 between Taliban negotiators and prominent Afghan personalities.

The September 13 meeting in Moscow marks the first international visit by members of the Taliban’s Qatar office since Trump on September 9 declared that peace talks with U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad were “dead.”

Earlier, Trump cancelled a secret meeting with Taliban negotiators that had been scheduled at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.

In Washington, Khalilzad has been called to testify at a U.S. congressional hearing on September 19 about the collapse of the talks with U.S. officials.