Afghanistan will not attend peace talks hosted by Russia, two senior government officials said on Wednesday, a decision that could scupper Moscow's plans for a multinational conference also involving the Taliban to discuss the future of the country.
The decision not to attend the Moscow conference scheduled for Sept. 4 came just hours after Afghanistan's top security official said he hoped Russia could press the Taliban insurgents into joining peace talks with the Kabul government.
Russia has invited 12 countries, including the United States, to the Moscow talks but Washington has also declined to attend. The Taliban, which this week rejected a government offer of a three-month ceasefire, have yet to say whether they will attend the Moscow talks.
We have decided against attending the Moscow conference, said an official of the Afghan foreign ministry, adding that the government would hold direct talks with the Taliban without the direct involvement of foreign powers.
The official gave no reason for the decision.
A senior Kabul-based foreign diplomat whose country is among those invited to the Moscow talks said Russia would now have to rethink the plans to hold their talks with the Taliban.
Its no point holding talks about Afghanistan if the leaders of the country are not attending it, the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Russian Embassy in Kabul was not immediately available to comment.
Meanwhile, the Taliban said on Wednesday it would send senior members to Russia for peace talks on Afghanistan, hours after the Afghan government declined the offer to attend such a conference.
Our leaders have accepted Russia's invitation to participate in Russia-led peace talks, said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.
Source: Radio Pakistan