Talks on Afghanistan, never said with Taliban, MEA spokesperson clarifies

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The talks, known as the "Moscow format" will include a "high-level" delegation from the Taliban as well as a delegation of Afghanistan's "High Peace Council", along with twelve countries, and will mark the first time an Indian delegation has been present at the table in talks with the Taliban representatives based in Doha.

The Taliban's attendance will bolster the group's global status, while the meeting gives Moscow the chance to influence peace efforts until now dominated by Washington.

However, the head of the political office of Taliban in Qatar Mullah Abbas Stanikzai said the ongoing conflict is not a war among the Afghan tribes and has links with the presence of the foreign forces.

Shaheen also denied accusations by the US military that Russian Federation has supplied weapons to the Taliban, echoing a similar denial by Moscow.

Russian Federation says the Moscow talks marked the first time that a Taliban delegation had taken part in such high-level worldwide meeting.

On Thursday, the United States said it would send representatives from its embassy in Moscow to the talks; Pakistan is also expected to send a representative.

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"Concerned with unabated violence, the (two) sides resolved to work through the Moscow Format, SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) Contact Group on Afghanistan, and all other recognised formats for an early resolution to the conflict in Afghanistan", the statement said.

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Russian Federation has said that invitations for the meet has been sent out to India, Iran, China, Pakistan, the US, Afghanistan and other countries.

"With participation in the meeting, the worldwide status of the Islamic Emirate [the Taliban] will be strengthened even further Such diplomatic efforts of the Islamic Emirate showcase the active, clear and independent diplomacy and policy of the Islamic Emirate in the political field", asserted the insurgent spokesman. The Taliban will also be part of the meeting. "There will not be any sort of negotiations taking place with the delegation of Kabul administration", he said.

Pakistan also supports the move and is likely to participate.

A Taliban delegation met with U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar in October to discuss ending the Afghan conflict.

The Afghan delegation was headed by Deputy Minister for Afghan Ministry of Refugee Affairs Dr Alema Aslam, while Secretary SAFRON led the Pakistan side in the meeting, which discussed matters related to Afghan refugees and other Afghan nationals illegally residing in Pakistan.

Newly appointed U.S. peace envoy Khalilzad has been trying to convince the Taliban to agree to negotiate an end to the war and there are fears the Russian meeting could derail those efforts.

The Afghan foreign ministry has emphasised that the council does not represent the Afghan government at the meeting, however. The attack on an army outpost in Takhar province happened as the USA envoy, Khalilzad arrived in Afghanistan to kick off his peace tour.

A United States government watchdog last week said Kabul´s control of Afghanistan had slipped in recent months as local security forces suffered heavy casualties while making minimal or no progress against the Taliban.

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