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Taliban Says It's Not Ready For Talks With Kabul

Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai (R), head of the Taliban’s political council in Qatar, takes part in the multilateral peace talks on Afghanistan in Moscow November 9

The Taliban are not ready to negotiate with the Afghan government, a Taliban member said at talks in Moscow on November 9.

A Taliban delegation attended a diplomatic conference in Russia for the first time, but the Kabul government sent no official representative, and the sides reported no progress.

At the end of the talks in the Russian capital, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, who led the Taliban delegation, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying the militants are not ready for direct talks with Kabul and will negotiate with the United States instead.

Opening the meeting earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia hopes "through joint efforts to open a new page in the history of Afghanistan."

The first Russian initiative to hold the conference in September was abandoned after the Afghan authorities refused to attend.

This time, the Afghan government sent only members of the government-appointed High Peace Council to attend the event.

Afghanistan's Foreign Ministry on November 9 issued a statement stressing that the High Peace Council is taking part in the talks "in its own capacity as a national but nongovernment institution, with a view to discuss the dynamics and details of initiating direct negotiations."

The High Peace Council (HPC) is a body of the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program, established by former President Hamid Karzai to negotiate with elements of the Taliban.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the militant group was sending five representatives, who will not hold "any sort of negotiations" with the Peace Council delegation.

Informal contacts between the Taliban and members of Afghanistan's Peace Council have taken place at various forums in the past.

Based on reporting by AP, TASS, and Interfax

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