The Taliban have sent a delegation to Russia to discuss prospects for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan following the collapse of talks with the United States earlier this month.
Mohammad Sohail Shaheen, spokesperson for the Taliban Qatar office, told TASS earlier on Friday the Taliban delegation had met with Russian president's special envoy for Afghanistan and director of the Russian foreign ministry's second Asia department, Zamir Kabulov, to discuss recent developments around the peace process in Afghanistan.
The move, days after U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly canceled a planned meeting with Taliban leaders last Saturday and called the talks "dead," came as the group looks to bolster regional support, with visits also planned for China, Iran and Central Asian states.
"The purpose of these visits is to inform leaders of these countries about the peace talks and President Trump's decision to call off the peace process at a time when both sides had resolved all outstanding issues and were about to sign a peace agreement," said a senior Taliban leader in Qatar.
"The Russian side stressed the necessity of the resumption of talks between the United States and the Taliban movement," a Russian foreign ministry spokesperson said on Saturday, quoted by RIA Novosti state-funded news agency.
"Taliban, in turn, reiterated its readiness to continue dialogue with Washington," he added.
18 years of unending war
The U.S. invaded Afghanistan and launched a war against the Taliban after members of the terrorist group Al-Qaida attacked the United States on September 11, 2001.
Hopes of ending almost two decades of America's longest war rose when negotiators on both sides struck a draft peace deal last week after months of peace talks.
However, the deal which would have seen some 5,000 U.S. troops withdrawn from Afghanistan in exchange for security guarantees from the Taliban, faced heavy criticism from the Afghan government, which was shut out of the talks.
The draft accord did not include a ceasefire agreement and with violence continuing, Trump announced the cancellation of the Camp David meeting via Twitter. He subsequently described the talks as "dead" and said U.S. forces would step up operations against the Taliban.
The sudden U.S. decision to suspend peace talks with the Taliban has many fearing that Afghanistan could see a spike in attacks by the militants as they try to bring the U.S. back to the negotiating table.
Russia, China see need to resume talks between U.S., Taliban
Russia, which has hosted meetings between the Taliban and Afghan political and civil society representatives in Moscow, said this week it hoped that the process could be put back on track and urged both sides to resume talks.
"We are convinced that the complete end to foreign military presence is an inalienable condition of durable peace in Afghanistan," Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on Thursday.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said earlier this month that China believes that the Afghan issue could be resolved through a political process.
China supports the Afghan government in pushing forward the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process to achieve an inclusive political reconciliation at an early date, he added.