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Taliban leaders reach out again to Panjshir rivals Massoud and Saleh at a meeting in Moscow

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Ahmad Massoud and former Vice President of the previous Afghan government Amrullah Saleh.

Taliban’s deputy Prime Minister Mullah Baradar and the Defence Minister Mullah Yaqoob were in Moscow last week and had a series of meetings with the anti-Taliban leaders Ahmad Massoud and former Vice President of the previous Afghan government Amrullah Saleh.

Tajuden Soroush, a journalist of Iran International, quoting various sources, confirmed about the meeting. Afghan International News also confirmed that Ahmad Massoud, the leader of the Resistance Front, and former Vice President Amrullah Saleh had gone to Russia to meet Mullah Baradar and Mullah Yaqoob.

Though no details are available, the Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, in a press briefing said on Sunday that Moscow is concerned about ethnic tensions and protests in the northern part of Afghanistan. She pointed out that the main cause of these tensions and protests is the arrest of Makhdoom Alam, a prominent Uzbek commander of Taliban along with his supporters. Afghanistan’s Taliban regime is battling a rebellion by ethnic minority fighters in their own ranks in the country’s north, a sign that ties are fraying within the alliance built by the Pashtun dominated Islamist group.

Also Read : Taliban deploys suicide bombers to quell uprising in Afghanistan’s Faryab province

The Taliban leadership knows that there can be no peace in North Afghanistan if the Uzbek and Tajik groups remain hostile. Ahmad Massaod is the son of the Lion of Panjshir, Ahmad Shah Massoud who was a celebrity Tajik leader.

A fortnight ago, Amir Mutaqqi, the Foreign Minister of the Taliban regime had met Ahmad Shah and Ismail Khan, another anti-Taliban veteran in Tehran in Iran. Muttaqi appointed Ismal Khan’s nephew as the new ambassador in Iran but the first ever face to face talk between the Taliban and their archrival Ahmad Massoud was a non-starter.

Ahmad Massoud told Muttaqi that “the issues of women's rights, children's rights, establishing a lawful government  through a fair election, eliminating tyranny, freedom of expression and a de-centralised system were a must for any solution.”

But Muttaqi told him that Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is also the chief of Haqqani Network, has already rejected these demands of decentralising the power and inclusive government. The Taliban minister admitted that there were internal differences in the Taliban regime on several issues but was hopeful “it will be solved in the future.”

Analysts believe that Iran and Russia have “good” relations with the Taliban as well as Massoud. “They both (Taliban and Massoud) are testing each other”.

Interestingly, while one Taliban delegation led by Amir Muttaqi, the Foreign Minister of the regime is in Oslo in Norway, another delegation of the Taliban led by Mullah Baradar and Mullah Yakoob was in Russia.

Also Read : Haqqani would not agree to your demands, Taliban Minister Mutaqqi told Massoud claims National Resistance Front (NRF)