Moscow, Nov 3 (AFP) Russia on Saturday said it will host international talks on Afghanistan on November 9, with representatives of both the Afghan government and the Taliban, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Moscow said Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban have agreed to send delegations to the conference.

“It will be the first time that a delegation of the Political Office of the Taliban Movement in Doha will take part in international talks (at) such a level,” the foreign ministry’s statement said.

It added that Moscow had also invited representatives from the US as well as India, Iran, China, Pakistan and five former Soviet republics in Central Asia to take part.

“The Russian side reaffirms its position that there is no alternative to a political settlement in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan,” the statement said.

Ghani — who took office in 2014 as US-led NATO combat troops withdrew from Afghanistan — announced Saturday that he will seek re-election in 2019.

He is expected to present himself to war-weary voters as the only candidate who can end the 17-year conflict in the country.

A US government watchdog this week said Kabul’s control of Afghanistan slipped in recent months as local security forces suffered record-level casualties while making minimal or no progress against the Taliban.

The US has renewed efforts to engage the Taliban in peace talks, which are showing tentative signs of bearing fruit.

Taliban representatives have met with US officials at least twice in Qatar in recent months, most recently on October 12 with newly appointed US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.

Moscow has declared its readiness to serve as a platform for dialogue.

In April 2017, Russia hosted an international conference on Afghanistan.

The US was invited to that meeting but did not participate. (AFP) CPS 11031719

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.