Russia has urged both the Afghan officials and the Taliban leaders during talks in Moscow to reach a speedy agreement to put an end to years of violence as the deadline for US troops to withdraw from the war-torn country draws near.
The call came during a Thursday conference in Moscow, which was part of intensified negotiations between the Afghan government, the Taliban militant group, and the United States. The three parties had already met in Qatar’s capital, Doha, to negotiate Washington's exit from Afghanistan about 20 years after US troops invaded the country under the pretext of fighting terrorism.
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.
The new US President Joe Biden, however, said on Wednesday that it would be "tough" to meet that deadline.
Last week, Russia said it supported the formation of an interim government in Afghanistan that will include the Taliban.
"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," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova said last Friday.
Opening the conference on Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, "In a degrading military-political situation, further delays are unacceptable.”
He also expressed regret that Afghanistan peace talks in Doha have so far failed to progress, hoping that
international negotiations with Afghan government representatives and the Taliban in Moscow would support the process.
"We regret that so far the efforts to launch a political (peace) progress in Doha have yet to yield a positive result," Lavrov said, adding, "We hope today's talks will facilitate the creation of conditions to achieve progress."
Taliban co-founder and deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar told the Moscow conference that Afghans "should be left to decide their own fate," a Taliban spokesman said in a tweeted summary of Baradar's speech, which was given behind closed doors.
He added, "The world should take into account the Islamic values, independence and national interests of the Afghan people."
During the conference, participants from Russia, the United States, China and Pakistan appealed for a reduction in violence in Afghanistan, urging all warring sides to avoid further escalation in order to "create a favorable atmosphere for achieving a politico-diplomatic settlement."
"We call on all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan to reduce the level of violence in the country and the Taliban ... not to declare a spring-summer offensive campaign," they said in a joint statement.
The international mediators also said the Afghan government and the Taliban should reach an agreement "as soon as possible" that would "bring an end to over four decades of war in Afghanistan."
Also in a show of support for the international efforts, the head of the Afghan government's reconciliation council, Abdullah Abdullah, said Kabul wanted to speed up negotiations and for "the two sides to start their talks and discussions in a different atmosphere."
The Afghan delegation included a large spectrum of personalities from the past four years of conflict, including members of the current negotiation team in Doha, a former president and two former military leaders.