Russia Hosts Afghan Talks, Highlighting Growing Role

Russia hosted a group of Afghan government-linked envoys along with their Taliban rivals Friday, as the Kremlin waded into efforts to end a 17-year conflict where Western efforts have repeatedly failed."Russia stands for preserving the one and undivided Afghanistan, in which all of the ethnic groups that inhabit this country would live side by side peacefully and happily," said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in a statement opening the talks in Moscow."I am counting on you holding a serious and constructive conversation that will justify the hopes of the Afghan people," Lavrov added, calling for "a new page in the history of Afghanistan."Despite the lofty rhetoric, Russian officials were careful to keep expectations low in advance of the event. Talks were billed as negotiations aimed at merely securing future peace talks — with success defined as merely getting the two sides to sit together at all.Two earlier high-profile Russian efforts to organize talks were canceled at the last minute after the Afghan government refused to participate.


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