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Taliban, Afghan Delegations Hail 'Successful' Moscow Meeting, Pledge To Meet Again


Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has described the talks as "very satisfactory."

Taliban representatives and an Afghan delegation led by former President Hamid Karzai have said that after two days of negotiations in Russia they aim to continue their "intra-Afghan" dialogue in Qatar "as soon as possible."

Karzai led a delegation of about 40 Afghan politicians -- although without representatives of the current government in Kabul -- at the two-day round of talks in Moscow on February 5-6.

The two sides said in a joint statement quoted by Afghan broadcaster Tolo News that they agreed to meet again in Doha, the capital of Qatar, where the Taliban has a semiofficial office.

The Moscow meeting came as broader peace talks involving the U.S. and Taliban representatives in Doha appear to be gaining momentum.

U.S. and Taliban negotiators are scheduled to meet again on February 25 in Doha, weeks after Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, said a framework peace agreement had been reached with the militants.

Khalilzad, who also did not attend the Moscow meetings, is due to speak in Washington on February 8 about the status of the Afghan peace process.

Karzai said at the end of the Moscow meeting that those talks had been "very satisfactory."

Despite the absence of any Afghan government representatives, the Moscow meeting has been described as part of an "intra-Afghan" peace process.

However, the gathering has been criticized by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. "Those taking part in the talks are independent individuals," Ghani said, according to Tolo News.

"When Mr. Karzai returns from Moscow we will see what he has brought.... I wish the best for him," Ghani said.

Karzai said the main issue under discussion in Moscow was that Afghanistan should be free of foreign forces, adding that there was a near-consensus on this matter.

Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, the head of the 10-member Taliban delegation in Moscow, said the meetings had been "very successful."

"We agreed on many points and I am hopeful that in future, we can succeed further, and finally we can reach a solution, we can find a complete peace in Afghanistan," Stanikzai told reporters.

Stanikzai also said the timeline for a U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan had not yet been fixed and that negotiations on the issue were continuing.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, AP, Interfax, and TASS

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