At his opening remarks, Hamid Karzai said he hoped that the Moscow talks would help reinstate peace in Afghanistan. “A democratic and free Afghanistan can be achieved if there is unity among the people,” said Hamid Karzai.
A stout critic of the United States, Karzai thanked Americans for their efforts for peace in the war-battered country. He also expressed hope thatbilateral relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan will be restored.
Taliban’s chief negotiator Abbas Stanikzai said the group does not consider the current Afghan Constitution “legitimate” and that it was an obstacle to peace.“The current Constitution has been imposed on Afghans by Kabul’s administration; Afghanistan’s Constitution must be ratified by Afghanistan’s religious scholars and academics so that it will be acceptable to the Afghan people,” he said.
He said the Taliban want the crisis to be resolved in a peaceful way and that the group wants to play a significant role in the security of the region. “Peace needs a realistic approach. Peace needs the consensus of all Afghans. Peace needs a strong guarantee,” he said.
Stanikzai spoke out Taliban’s strategies for peace, governance, health, women’s rights, development projects and reducing civilian casualties.
He said that once US forces withdraw, the Taliban will not demand political monopoly and that in order to achieve sustainable peace, the names of Taliban leaders must be removed from the US blacklist so that they can travel freely in their efforts for peace.
Taliban also ruled out sabotaging women’s education, saying its militants have neither poisoned schoolgirls nor have they torched any of their schools. They also claimed they had no involvement in targeting civilian vehicles with IEDs.
The Afghan government has no representation in Moscow as the rebel Taliban has been refusing to stage direct talks with the “illegitimate government” in Kabul.
Amid talks in attendance of Afghanistan’s prominent politicians but not the government, President Ashraf Ghani is feeling in a bind for having been sidelined. He delivered a scathing critique on the ongoing meeting in Moscow. In a television broadcast, the president said that all reconciliation efforts and negotiations with Taliban will happen in consultation with his administration.
“War is not a solution to the country’s problems.War needs intra-Afghan dialogue. The era of repression has ended. Two and a half million Afghans were martyred for the cause of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and it is a (matter of) principle for all of us,” said former vice president Mohammad Yunus Qanooni who also addressed the delegates.
“We have reshaped our army, we have dignified air forces. We have parliament, legal and judicial institutions. A dynamic generation is working in Afghanistan and these are great achievements and we must defend them. But we need to bring reforms in our system. But Afghans prefer a democracy which will be compatible to our values,” said Qanooni.He said that Moscow talks indicate that Afghans have the determination and the will to open a new chapter to solve the issues and that Afghans and Taliban should come together to resolve their differences. “The majority of Afghans abroad and inside the country has expectations from the Moscow talks; they wait for happy news while our rivals and those opposing peace and foresee interests in the war expect negative results from these talks here. “I recommend all participants here reach a conclusion not to end our meeting until we reach a comprehensive settlement. We can prolong our talks and can think about a mechanism,” said Qanooni.Qanooni in defiance to the Taliban rejected the group’s perception of the Afghan Constitution and instead described it as unique and one of the better ones in the region.
In addition, Mohammad Mohaqiq, the second deputy of CEO Abdullah Abdullah, also spoke at the meeting and called on the Taliban to show flexibility and avoid the policy of rejecting other Afghans as this did nothing to help end the war.“We don’t have any justification for war in Afghanistan. Because both sides are Muslims and there is no justification for bloodshed. We call ourselves Afghans. As Afghans we should not use weapons against each other,” he said.
Fawzia Kofi, former MP, also addressed delegates as did Atta Mohammad Noor, former Balkh governor – who called for an interim government.