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Taliban Delegation Discusses Afghan Peace Talks With Russian Officials

Zamir Kabulov is Russia's special envoy for Afghanistan.

A Taliban delegation has held talks with Russian officials in Moscow amid ongoing peace talks between the Afghan government and the militant group.

Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem tweeted that the delegation led by Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, a senior member of the Taliban’s negotiating team, met with Russia's special envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, and officials from the Foreign Ministry on January 28.

Naeem said the two sides discussed the “ongoing situation of the intra-Afghan negotiations” and “subjects concerning the full implementation of the” U.S.-Taliban agreement signed in February 2020.

During a phone call with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington was reviewing the deal to determine “whether the Taliban are living up to their commitments to cut ties with terrorist groups, to reduce violence in Afghanistan, and to engage in meaningful negotiations with the Afghan government and other stakeholders.”

Blinken “highlighted robust diplomatic support for the peace process focused on helping the parties to the conflict achieve a durable and just political settlement and a permanent and comprehensive cease-fire," the State Department said in a readout of the January 28 call.

Under the agreement, all foreign forces are to leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for security guarantees from the militant group, including severing ties with terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda.

The Afghan government has welcomed the Biden administration’s review of the U.S.-Taliban deal.

Stanekzai’s trip to Moscow comes a day after a separate delegation led by deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar met with high-ranking Iranian officials in Tehran.

Baradar met with Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, and other officials.

Naeem said the two sides discussed the Afghan peace process, border issues, and Afghan refugees.

The trips came with peace talks in the Gulf state of Qatar deadlocked.

The warring sides have agreed on the rules and procedures for the negotiations. But they have yet to settle on an agenda for the talks. Negotiations over the substantial issues -- including a permanent cease-fire and a power-sharing formula -- are far off.

Progress has been hampered by deep mistrust and animosity. A huge gulf remains on key issues between the sides, which have conflicting priorities in the negotiations.

Those divisions have been exacerbated by soaring violence. Both sides have intensified military operations, particularly the Taliban, which sees violence as its main source of leverage against the government.

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