Taliban delegation turn to Russia after Trump declares talks ‘dead’

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MOSCOW, Russia

Taliban representatives have held discussions with Russian officials in Moscow, just days after US President Donald Trump declared months-long peace talks between Washington and the group “dead”.

Taliban’s Qatar-based spokesman Suhail Shaheen confirmed the meeting in the Russian capital on Friday, saying the group’s delegation held consultations with Zamir Kabulov, Russia’s special envoy for Afghanistan.

At the meeting, Russia stressed the necessity of the resumption of talks between the US and the Taliban, while the group’s delegation reiterated their readiness to renewing dialogue with Washington, an unidentified Russian foreign ministry spokesman was quoted as saying by the TASS news agency.

Peace talks between the United States and the Taliban began last October in Qatar, with the aim of ending the 18-year-old war in Afghanistan. After nine rounds of negotiations in Doha, US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said earlier this month a peace agreement was finalised “in principle”.

But on Sunday, Trump said he had cancelled secret meetings at the Camp David presidential retreat with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Taliban leaders, following a car bomb attack in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul.

“They are dead. They are dead. As far as I’m concerned, they are dead,” Trump said of the peace talks.

Shaheen, the Taliban spokesman, said Trump’s move came as a surprise to the group as the peace negotiations had concluded “successfully” and a deal was to be announced soon. 

“It was astonishing for us because we had already concluded the peace agreement with the American negotiating team,” Shaheen told Al Jazeera.

He added that the group wanted Qatar to announce the agreement before attending any meeting at Camp David.

Since talks began, discussions focused on four key issues: a Taliban guarantee it will not allow foreign armed groups and fighters to use Afghanistan as a launchpad to conduct attacks outside the country; the complete withdrawal of US and NATO forces; an intra-Afghan dialogue; and a permanent ceasefire.

The Taliban are at their strongest since their removal in 2001 by a US-led invasion after the 9/11 attacks and hold over more than half the country, staging near-daily attacks across Afghanistan.

Al Jazeera News

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