"Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests." Henry Kissinger rephrased it: "America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests."
This applies to Russia which hosted the Taliban for peace talks in Moscow attended by Afghanistan, India, Iran, China, Pakistan and five former Soviet republics in Central Asia with the US as observer.
Tellingly, the Taliban is banned from operating in Russia as it is classified as a "terrorist organization."
The Friday talks were the second meeting of the Moscow-format consultations at the level of deputy foreign ministers and special envoys.
Neither the US nor the Afghan government wants Russia to lead such an initiative, known as the "Moscow Format". Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who pressed Russia to cancel a similar meeting in September, sent four senior members of his nation's High Peace Council.Observers do not expect quick results from the Moscow talks but the fact that the Taliban are in the same room as Afghan delegates, in Russia, with the US also in attendance is viewed as significant. It was also seen a triumph for Russian diplomacy.
Russia has challenged the U.S. by hosting the Taliban at a Moscow peace conference in the latest source of friction between the two former Cold War foes, Blumberg said adding:
"While the Moscow meeting isn't likely to yield concrete results, Russia's intervention is taking place as President Donald Trump's administration has stepped up diplomatic activity, twice sending officials to meet with the Taliban in recent months and appointing a veteran envoy to advice on Afghan peace. The Taliban have said they are ready to talk to the U.S. to end the war, but not with the Afghan government they deem illegitimate."
The U.S. sent an observer from its Moscow embassy to the meeting after it refused to attend the September talks, saying they wouldn't help efforts to end the conflict.
The Russian foreign ministry said earlier that invitations to attend the event had been sent to participating countries -- Afghanistan, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and the United States.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
Addressing participants at the start of the conference, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the meeting is meant to seek paths to national reconciliation in Afghanistan.
Russia hopes "through joint efforts to open a new page in the history of Afghanistan." He said that the participation of both Afghan leaders and the Taliban was an "important contribution" aimed at creating "favorable conditions for the start of direct talks".
"I am counting on you holding a serious and constructive conversation that will justify the hopes of the Afghan people," Lavrov said before the talks continued behind closed doors.
He emphasized that Daesh terrorists are being supported by "external sponsors" which are trying to "turn Afghanistan into a stronghold of international terrorism in central Asia."
Lavrov said that "geopolitical games" are unacceptable in order not to make Afghanistan a "rivalry field between foreign players."