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Afghan rivals say no closer to direct talks after Moscow meeting

Afghanistan rivals failed to reach a breakthrough on holding direct peace negotiations after international talks in Moscow on Friday, the latest international push to end the conflict.

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Russia, which said it invited representatives from the United States as well as India, Iran, China and Pakistan, hailed the meeting as an opportunity to "open a new page" in Afghanistan's history and seek an end to the war 17 years after the US-led invasion.

The talks came with the Taliban ratcheting up pressure on Afghan police and troops this year even as the militants showed a tentative willingness to hold talks with the United States.

The Moscow meetings ended without the sides agreeing on a path to direct dialogue, the delegations from the Taliban and Kabul's High Peace Council said.

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"This conference was not about direct talks," Taliban spokesman Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai told journalists in translated comments quoted by Interfax news agency.

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The Taliban "does not recognise the current government as legal and therefore we won't hold talks with them," he added.
"Considering our main demand is the withdrawal of foreign forces, we will discuss a peaceful resolution with the Americans."

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

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

Afghan delegation member Hajji Din Mohammad told journalists that Russia invited them to a new meeting but that "agreement was not reached on holding direct talks" with the Taliban, RIA Novosti news agency reported.

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November 11, 2018

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