MOSCOW: Russia on Tuesday said it was convening a conference of leading regional powers on Afghanistan and pushed again for talks with the Taliban.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed Moscow would host a meeting in mid-February with representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, Iran and India during a press conference with his counterpart from Kabul Salahuddin Rabbani.
"We are expecting that our partners will be represented at a high level. Most have confirmed their participation," Lavrov said. Lavrov reiterated Moscow's stance that "the Taliban must be included in a constructive dialogue" to help find a solution to halt worsening violence in the war-ravaged nation at a time the Islamic State group has expanded its presence.
Russia's meeting does not include Western powers who have had troops in the country since the American-led invasion in 2001, but Lavrov said Moscow was hoping better ties with US President Donald Trump could jump-start cooperation over Afghanistan.
Moscow - which fought a disastrous military campaign in Afghanistan during the Soviet period - has been increasingly flexing its muscles as a key broker on the world stage since intervening in the Syrian war in 2015.