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Russia Tries Again To Start Afghan-Taliban Conference

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and member of Taliban delegation Alhaj Mohammad Sohail Shaina take part in the multilateral peace talks on Afghanistan in Moscow, November 9

Russia is hosting a conference on Afghanistan that brings together representatives of the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Program and the Taliban. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow has sent a diplomat to observe the talks.

Russia hopes "through joint efforts to open a new page in the history of Afghanistan," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said as the talks opened at a Moscow hotel on November 9.

The first Russian initiative to hold the conference in September was abandoned after the Afghan authorities refused to attend. This time, the Afghan government hasn't sent its envoys, but members of the government-appointed High Peace Council are attending the event.

Afghanistan's Foreign Ministry on November 9 issued a statement stressing that High Peace Council was taking part in the talks "in its own capacity as a national but non-government institution, with a view to discuss the dynamics and details of initiating direct negotiations."

The High Peace Council is a body of the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program, established by former President Hamid Karzai to negotiate with elements of the Taliban.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the militant group was sending five representatives, who will not hold "any sort of negotiations" with the Peace Council delegation.

The meeting marks a second attempt by Russia to get the Afghan authorities and the Taliban together at a table.

Informal contacts between the Taliban and members of Afghanistan's Peace Council have taken place at various forums in the past.

Based on reporting by AP, TASS, and Interfax