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Iran Press TV

Russia supports Afghanistan interim government with Taliban participation: Foreign Ministry

Iran Press TV

Friday, 12 March 2021 6:49 PM

Russia says it supports the formation of an interim government in Afghanistan that will include the Taliban.

Moscow is scheduled to host talks next week which is meant to move forward the peace process in the conflict-wracked country.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova declared the support while speaking to reporters on Friday, hours after Turkey also announced its intention to host Afghan peace talks in Istanbul next month.

"The formation of an interim inclusive administration would be a logical solution to the problem of integrating the Taliban into the peaceful political life of Afghanistan," Zakharova said.

She, however, added that the "formation of an interim coalition government should be decided by the Afghans themselves during national reconciliation talks."

During his recent meetings with the Afghan political leaders in Kabul, US special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad on March 2 proposed the formation of the interim participatory government with the Taliban militant group.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said later that his government is ready to discuss the possibility of holding fresh elections.

He told lawmakers at the opening of parliament session that his government "stand[s] ready to discuss holding free, fair and inclusive elections under the auspices of international community."

"Transfer of power through elections is a non-negotiable principle for us," Ghani said.

US President Joe Biden is wrapping up a review on whether to stick to an agreement his predecessor Donald Trump reached with the Taliban last year, which is mainly focused on withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan by May.

The US reached a deal with the Taliban in February last year on the withdrawal of 12,000 US troops from Afghanistan in exchange for the Taliban's halting of their attacks on American forces.

Under the so-called Doha Accord, the former US administration promised to bring the number of US forces in Afghanistan to zero by May 2021.

In a Monday statement, the US State Department said "no decisions" have been made regarding the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan by a May 1 deadline, adding "all options are on the table."

In a letter to the Afghan president, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Biden had lost faith in faltering negotiations between Kabul and the Taliban.

Blinken said in the letter that the US State Department, along with the UN, aimed to launch high-level talks "to move matters more fundamentally and quickly toward a settlement and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire" in Afghanistan.

Accordingly, the US will ask Turkey to host the meeting of "both sides in the coming weeks to finalize a peace agreement." Representatives from Russia, Pakistan, Iran, India and others will also be invited to "discuss a unified approach to supporting peace in Afghanistan."

Urging President Ghani to "understand the urgency of my tone," Blinken claimed he was worried that a hasty military exit from Afghanistan would worsen the security situation in the country and cause the Taliban to make "rapid territorial gains."

Turkey ready to host Kabul-Taliban meeting: FM

Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also said on Friday that Ankara was ready to host a meeting between the Taliban and Afghan leaders in April.

"Both the Taliban and the negotiation delegation, meaning the government side, had asked us to host such a meeting before," the Anadolu state news agency quoted as saying.

"We will do this (meeting) in coordination with brotherly Qatar," he added in reference to a separate rounds of talks staged in Doha.

But the top Turkish diplomat emphasized that he did not necessarily expect the Istanbul meeting to produce an immediate breakthrough.

"Our aim is to pursue negotiations between the Taliban and the government that are focused on a result," he said. "Maybe a ceasefire cannot be obtained but it is a continuing process."

"We are giving a message to the Taliban. We are saying them to end the attacks. We are telling them there can be no real negotiations while the attacks continue," the Turkish foreign minister said.

Violence has escalated in Afghanistan over the past year, with persistent Taliban attacks on government forces and a string of targeted assassination of officials, civil servants and journalists.

In his letter to President Ghani, Blinken proposed a 90-day reduction in violence that would avoid the Taliban's annual bloody spring offensive.

He said Washington was asking the United Nations to convene a meeting of foreign ministers from Afghanistan's neighbors to ensure future stability in the war-ravaged country.

But the Afghan leadership has responded to Blinken's letter with extreme caution with Vice President Amrullah Saleh saying that the country's fate could not be decided by "20 people in a room."

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