MOSCOW : Afghanistan is “closer to peace”, a deputy of the country’s High Peace Council said on Wednesday.Haji Deen Mohammad, who is also an aide for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, voiced cautious optimism as the second day of the intra-Afghan talks starts in Moscow via the body tasked with striking a peace deal between the government and Taliban. The talks were not the first to be held between representatives of the different Afghan sides, Deen Mohammad told Anadolu Agency, saying that the regular meetings showed progress achieved in the peace process. “I am the person who tries to bring all the sides to the talks and to solve the problems of Afghanistan, especially the bloodshed,” he said, adding that the Taliban had sent a large delegation, indicating the importance it placed in dialogue and negotiations. He expressed hope that the talks would result in a coalition government that included representatives from all sides. “This is the time for all to sit together and solve our problems through face-to-face discussions,” he said. Afghan Ambassador to Russia Latif Bahand thanked Moscow for its contributions to the Afghan peace process. “This is not the first time we have been at the same table with the Taliban, I feel normal sitting at the same table with them, we are fellow citizens, there are similar contradictions that now exist between the Afghans in all countries of the world,” he said, underlining that Russia went through such a period in its own history. On a possible visit of the Afghan president or foreign minister to Russia, Bahand said there was “no case when an invitation to visit Russia remained unanswered”, though a visit was unlikely this year due to an upcoming presidential election in the country next September.

On May 28-29 Russia and Afghanistan celebrate the centenary of relations between the two countries. This year, Moscow organised an informal meeting between different Afghan parties aiming at to push the peace process forward.