Representatives from the Taliban militant group have attended a meeting with high-ranking Afghan politicians in the Russian capital city of Moscow, where the participants called for an interim government as they negotiated without delegates from the incumbent administration in attendance.
The rare intra-Afghan gathering on Tuesday saw the Taliban elaborating on their vision for Afghanistan, among them rules around women and replacement of the country’s Constitution with one drawn up by Islamic scholars.
Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai, who led the Asian country from December 2001 to September 2014, described the talks as “very, very satisfactory.”
“We understand that the government needs to be part of these negotiations. We wish they could have been here today,” he told reporters in Moscow.
Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, who headed the Taliban delegation, said the initiative is the first step toward peace in Afghanistan.
He said the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan had also been discussed at the talks.
“The Kabul government constitution is invalid. It has been imported from the West and is an obstacle to peace,” the Taliban representative commented.
Fawzia Koofi, one of two women invited to Moscow, said Taliban militants would “have to adapt to a modern Afghanistan.”
“When they were in power, they would not even let women leave their homes,” Koofi, the head of Afghanistan’s parliamentary Committee on Women and Human Rights, told AFP.
“But now we’re hearing women could be prime minister or a minister. It’s a change I think. It’s a positive step but not enough,” she said.
‘No peace deal between the Taliban & the United States without Afghan govt.’
Meanwhile, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has highlighted that no peace deal between the Taliban and the United States could be finalized without involving his government as “the decision-maker.”
“At the end of any peace deal, the decision-maker will be the government of Afghanistan,” Ghani told private TOLO News television network.
“No power in the country can dissolve the government,” he said, adding that he was ready to “stand and defend our country.”
“Rest assured that no-one can push us aside,” Ghani pointed out.
The Afghan president further noted that the meeting in Russia is “nothing more than a fantasy. No one can decide without the consent of the Afghan people.”
“Those who have gathered in Moscow have no executive authority. They can say what they want,” he said.
The two-day Afghan peace talks in Moscow will conclude on Wednesday. It came a week after Taliban militants held talks with US negotiators in the Qatari capital city of Doha about ending their 17-year militancy.
The Taliban are scheduled to hold a second round of peace talks with Americans in the Persian Gulf kingdom on February 25.