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Political bigwigs vow to defend ‘national values’ in Moscow

KABUL: Afghan delegates who have been invited to attend the Moscow summit next week vowed Sunday that they will defend Afghanistan’s ‘national and democratic values’at the talks.

The talks will be held on 5th and 6th February but the Afghan government has not been invited to attend the talks in order to pave the ground for Taliban participation at the event as a senior Russian government official put it last week.

A statement from participants of the summit was sent from former president Hamid Karzai’s office, describing the meeting very important and as 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 Afghan; 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.

Twenty Afghan politicians have been invited to the talks in Moscow to find a political settlement to the decades old conflict in Afghanistan , but the unity government in Kabul said it preferred direct talks with the insurgents only.

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 Wahdat Party member Mohammad Mohaqiq, head of National Islamic Front of Afghanistan Sayed Hamid Gailani, former Taliban member Abdul Salam Zaeef and Zabihullah Mujaddedi, son of former president Sebghatullah Mujaddedi are Afghan politicians who are to attend the meeting in Moscow. Jamiat-e-Islami member Ahmad Zia Massoud has also been invited to the conference.

Former president Hamid Karzaiwill also attend the meeting as a key participant. Mr. Karzai said that he has met withUS Ambassador to AfghanistanJohn Basson Saturday. He tweeted: “Exchanged views on the peace process and the Moscow conference on Afghanistan.”

A delegation from the Taliban led by Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, former head of Taliban’s Qatar office, will also attend the Moscow talks, according to sources close to the Taliban.

This comes after the United States and Taliban officials last month agreed in principal on a draft framework for peace as the US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad put it. The US and Taliban officials met in Qatar last month for the fourth time and for six days. However, the group has refused to talk with Ghani’s negotiators.

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