Afghan Taliban unlikely to attend Afghan peace conference

Afghan Taliban unlikely to attend Afghan peace conference

KABUL - The Afghan Taliban are likely to miss an Afghan peace conference at which participants are set to call for direct talks between the militant group and the government of President <link> <link>Ashraf Ghani <link> , the foreign ministry in Uzbekistan said on Monday.

Representatives of the group have made no application to attend the March 26-27 meeting in the Uzbek capital Tashkent, suggesting they will not attend, a ministry statement said.

Ghani is set to attend along with US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

Also set to attend are the foreign ministers of India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Turkey and UN Special Representative for <link> <link> Afghanistan <link> , Tadamichi Yamamoto.

The <link> <link>Taliban <link> urged Washington last month to begin talks to end almost 17 years of war in <link> <link> Afghanistan <link> , which suggests they want to explore dialogue.

The group ruled <link> <link> Afghanistan <link> until 2001 when it was defeated by US-led troops in the wake of the September 11 attacks and it is fighting to restore Islamic rule in the country.

Ghani in February offered recognition of the <link> <link> Taliban <link> as a legitimate political group as part of a proposed process he said could lead to talks. -Agencies