Though Afghan Taliban rule out any negotiations with President Ashraf Ghani-led government, they will be meeting Afghan political leaders in Moscow, the capital of Russia, on Feb 5-6 to discuss the peace process. The High Peace Council (HPC), mandated to pursue peace negotiations with the armed opponents, has also been invited to the Russian capital but its secretary Umer Daudzai told BBC Pashto radio that the HPC may not send representatives as they have not been given enough time to discuss whether or not their participation in the process will be useful. HPC members had attended a conference of regional countries and other stakeholders in Russia in November last year. Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen has confirmed that the Taliban political envoys will participate in the meeting. Speaking to Daily Times from Qatar, where the Taliban have political headquarters, Shaheen described the Moscow meeting as an ‘intra-Afghan dialogue’. “I think it is intra-Afghan dialogue to see how to cope with current situation and pave the way for sustainable peace after foreign troops’ withdrawal,” he said. A section of Afghan media has reported that former president Hamid Karzai is also among the invitees, and it would be the first time when he meets senior Taliban leaders. Hizb-e-Islami (Hekmatyar) has also been invited as the Russian ambassador in Kabul met Hekmatyar this week to deliver the invitation. Hekmatyar’s son Habib-ur-Rehman has confirmed his party will attend. Former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, who is now based in Kabul and runs a religious school, former deputy foreign minister Hekmat Karzai, Hizb-e-Wahdat chief Muhammad Muhaqiq, former defence minister Shah Nawaz Tanai, former governors Atta Noor and Ismail Khan are prominent among those invited to Moscow. The Russian government has reportedly involved Moscow-based Afghans in the process. Afghan political leaders are gathering in Moscow days after President Ghani expressed reservations over direct Taliban-US talks in Qatar as he feels left out of the process so far. Political leaders including Hulbaddin Hekmatyar and Hanif Atmar have been critical at what they claim non-serious approach of the National Unity Government towards the peace process. Speaking at a TV interview this week, Hekmatyar even backed the Taliban stance not to talk to the Ghani administration and supported formation of an interim government for dialogue with the Taliban. The Moscow conference is likely to throw weight behind the US-Taliban talks as political parties are trying to establish a relationship with the Taliban. Daily Times has learnt that several political leaders in Afghanistan have approached the Taliban leadership. Member of Russia’s Afghan community and one of the event organizers Akhtar Safi said all parties in Afghanistan interested in the peace process, including the Taliban and the Afghan government, have been invited to the moot. Another organizer, Nadir Shah, said the conference will also involve delegates from the Afghan communities in CIS member states and European countries as well as representatives from Iran and Pakistan. Published in Daily Times, February 3rd 2019.