Unidentified representatives of Afghani government foreign ministry speak with journalists prior to the start of Afghanistan peace settlement talks with the Taliban in Moscow on Nov. 9. Photo by Sergei Chirikov/EPA
Nov. 9 (UPI) -- Russia hosted representatives from the Taliban and the Afghan government along with other countries Friday in hopes of ending the 17-year civil war in the country while challenging the United States to take part.
The peace conference held in Moscow included four senior members of Afghanistan's High Peace Council along with the Taliban representatives. Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov told the Moscow Times that it was trying to find an "inclusive, inter-Afghan dialogue" to end the conflict.
The meeting between the government officials and the Taliban "will be an important contribution to providing favorable conditions for the start of direct talks between the government and the Taliban movement," Lavrov said.
"(It's) very important to come here," Azizullah Din Mohammad, the head of the High Peace Council's delegation, told reporters. "When there is peace there will be no need for Americans in Afghanistan."
Last month, the U.S. tried its own effort to bring both sides together when Afghan-American diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad met with members of the Taliban in Qatar. Khalilzad leads the U.S. mission for Afghan peace in the area.
It was reportedly the second time a U.S. diplomat has met with the Taliban after the Trump administration told its foreign representatives to seek direct engagement with the militant group. Those meetings, though, have been described as "talks before talks" and have yet to lead to more direct negotiations with the United States.
"Russia supports the preservation of a united and indivisible Afghanistan in which all ethnic groups populating the country could live peacefully and happily," Lavrov said at the meeting, according to Russia's state-run news agency TASS. "I have no doubts that the other participants of the Moscow format share this approach and that we all go by basic national interests of the Afghan people.
"No one should think in terms of geopolitical games that may result in another transformation of Afghanistan into a field for competition between external players with drastic consequences both for the Afghans and their neighbors," he added.