As the debate around peace talks in Moscow gathers momentum, Afghan delegates who plan to attend the summit said in a joint statement that they will “defend” national and democratic values at the meeting later this week.
Afghan politicians that will attend the talks include former president Hamid Karzai, former vice president Mohammad Yunus Qanuni, former Balkh governor and Jamiat-e-Islami member Atta Mohammad Noor, Jamiat-e-Islami member Mohammad Ismail Khan, second deputy chief executive and Wahday party member Mohammad Mohaqiq, head of National Islamic Front of Afghanistan Sayed Hamid Gailani, former member of Taliban Abdul Salam Zaeef, Zabihullah Mujaddedi, son of former president Sebghatullah Mujaddedi, and Zia Massoud, Jamiat member and President Ashraf Ghani’s former special envoy on reforms.
Sources close to the Taliban said a delegation from their group, led by Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, former head of Taliban’s Qatar office, will also attend the Moscow talks.
Sunday’s statement, which was sent to the media by Karzai’s office, calls the meeting an “intra-Afghan peace dialogue” initiated by the Council of Afghans Society in Russia.
The statement says the talks hold “special importance” and is “the first step towards an intra-Afghan dialogue”.
According to the statement, the delegation will attend the meeting while “having a deep feeling about their historical obligation” at a juncture where “the people of Afghanistan are desperately waiting for tangible improvements in the peace talks”.
The statement says the delegation’s main stance will be to defend achievements and safeguard an Islamic Republic system, national institutions, security and defense institutions.
The statement says the delegation hopes that the Moscow meeting will be “complementary” to the US efforts for Afghan peace and for encouraging a national and regional consensus around this process.
News of the Moscow meeting was met with mixed reaction by Afghan politicians and analysts last week. Some said the summit was a “confrontation” between Russia and the United States on Afghan peace, while others said it was a chance for the peace process.
The statement meanwhile outlines the talks agenda and says the Afghan delegation will insist on the following principles:
• Protecting and strengthening the Islamic Republic system
• Afghanistan is the shared home for all Afghans
• Following Islamic and national values
• Insisting on maintaining (keeping) a powerful and democratic central government
• Strengthening national unity and ensuring social justice
• The principle of impartiality of Afghanistan in regional and world conflicts
• To ensure that policies match the modern world’s measures while protecting religious and national values
The statement also said the delegation will insist on the following issues regarding the peace process and the next steps:
• Supporting the US efforts for the (Afghan) peace process led by (US Special Envoy) Zalmay Khalilzad
• Insisting on a ceasefire amid the start of intra-Afghan talks
• Insisting on continuation of intra-Afghan talks aimed at ending the war and bloodshed in the country
• Ensuring that Afghanistan is safe from threats and interference by foreign countries
• Assuring the international community that Afghanistan’s territory will not be a threat (to other countries)
• Ensuring that women’s right to education, work, political, economic and social activities is ensured
• Insisting on fundamental rights and freedoms of the people of Afghanistan
• Insisting and getting assurance that sustainable peace and stability are ensured in the country
• Encouraging Russia and other countries in the region to create a political consensus on a regional and international level in supporting the Afghan peace process.
“We see the Moscow talks as an important opportunity for the start of intra-Afghan talks and we are looking forward to positive achievements and continuation of this process,” the statement said.
The delegation has called on the Afghan government’s leadership to play a “constructive” role in the peace process by having authorized representatives present.
However, the statement has not clarified at which talks the Afghan government representatives should be present.