Pakistan will attend a crucial meeting later this month in Moscow, which is being convened by Russia with an aim to restart the stalled Afghan peace process, officials and diplomatic sources confirmed here on Sunday.
Russia has launched a diplomatic initiative to arrange a meeting of Pakistan, the US, China and Iran in order to develop a “collective mechanism” for the Afghan peace efforts.
Moscow is also pushing for hosting the stalled intra-Afghan dialogue. The talks that began in Doha in September made slow progress because of differences between the two sides. The situation became further uncertain after the new US administration decided to review the February 29, 2020 deal.
Against this backdrop, Russia is making efforts to seek resumption of intra-Afghan talks and also broader regional consensus.
For this purpose, Special Representative of the Russian President for Afghanistan, Ambassador Zamir Kabulov recently visited Islamabad and sought Pakistan’s support for Moscow’s initiative.
Although there is no official confirmation, diplomatic sources told media that Pakistan backed the initiative and will attend the meeting.
“Pakistan supports any effort that contributes to peace in Afghanistan ,” a source familiar with the development said.
Moscow hosted a similar meeting in 2018 where Afghan Taliban were for the first time given an international stage. The US attended the meeting as an observer. It is not clear if the US will formally join Moscow’s initiative but Iran and China are certain to attend the meeting.
The development comes at a time when the peace process hangs in the balance after the US and NATO indicated that they may not withdraw their troops by May 1 as agreed in the US-Taliban deal.
The US and Afghan government have accused the Taliban of not fully implementing the Doha accord. The US and NATO insist the troops withdrawal is condition-based. Taliban, however, rejected the allegations that they were not implementing the Doha agreement.
In a statement, the Taliban listed a number of steps to implement the agreement. The statement noted that not a single American soldier was killed since the deal was signed a year ago.
Russia backed the Taliban’s claim as Ambassador Kabulov said the insurgent group “flawlessly” implemented the deal. He instead accused the US of not adhering to the accord.
Moscow is not only seeking resumption of intra-Afghan talks but also proposing an interim government by including all factions, including the Taliban. The Ashraf Ghani administration related sharply to the Russian proposal and insisted that the current administration had been given a five-year mandate.
With these divergences, Moscow’s meeting will be seen with a lot of skepticism both by the Afghan government and the US. But Pakistan feels that Russia is an important player and hence has a role in the Afghan peace process.
Key regional countries, including Pakistan, China, Russia and Iran, have broader consensus on the Afghan peace process. They want a political settlement of the Afghan war and also recognise the Taliban as a political entity. The Taliban representatives have in recent years frequently travelled to these countries.
The convergence among these key regional players is aimed at preventing Afghanistan slipping into a civil war, something that will pose threat to these countries.