Moscow - A group of Afghan politicians led by former president Hamid Karzai and members of the Taliban led by the deputy leader of the group Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar on Tuesday attended a ceremony in Moscow on 100 years of Afghanistan-Russia diplomatic relations.

Addressing the ceremony, Taliban deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar said “the Islamic Emirate wants peace”, but “the hurdles on the way of peace should be removed”.

“The key barrier to peace is the presence of foreign forces,” Baradar reiterated, referring to the Taliban’s longtime stance on the presence of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan who toppled the regime in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks.

“The Islamic Emirate is firmly committed to peace, but to determine peace, first we need to address the barriers on the way of peace and that means the end of the occupation of Afghanistan,” Baradar added.

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan wants friendly relations with all its neighbours and will not allow anyone to use Afghanistan’s soil against others,” said Latif Khan Mutaqi, a member of Taliban delegation.

Former president Hamid Karzai said at the event that Afghans want friendly relations with Russia. “We, the people of Afghanistan, appreciate Russia’s efforts for hosting talks on Afghan peace,” he added.

Afghan politicians led by ex-president Hamid Karzai also attend Moscow ceremony

Tuesday’s meeting in Moscow marks the first time that a senior leader from the insurgency holding talks face-to-face with the Afghan politicians.

Karzai also called on the US and Russi a to help Afghanistan to reach peace and stability. “Afghanistan expects that the Russian Federation act independently and help Afghanistan towards peace alongside support from the United States, China and other countries involved in the issue such as Germany to play an effective role in this sphere,” said Karzai.

“The war in Afghanistan has no military solution. The only solution is to rely on diplomacy and politics. We believe that all foreign forces should evacuate Afghanistan. The Afghan society should get together for a settlement in a way that all ethnic groups live together with peace,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

“We are calling for a total pullout of foreign forces from the country. We are calling on all Afghan sides to start talks as soon as possible involving a broad range of social and political forces,” Lavrov said in welcoming the Taliban delegation, despite the fact that the militant movement is designated a terrorist organization in Russia.

The remarks appeared aimed in part at the United States, which has thousands of troops in Afghanistan nearly two decades after leading an invasion.

“Russia is convinced that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan,” Lavrov said. “The only possible way...is to achieve peace by political and diplomatic means.”

“Let’s join hands and take a good benefit from this meeting and take the second step towards the future meeting in Doha with a mechanism which will ensure the dignity of both sides and move forward,” said Mohammad Karim Khalili, the head of the Afghan High Peace Council (HPC).

Meanwhile, Atta Mohammad Noor, the CEO of Jamiat-e-Islami party of Afghanistan said that Russia’s intention for peace in Afghanistan is true. He said that if the Afghans get together and keep unity, there will be no need for the presence of foreign forces in the country.

“It is not our fault that the US is present in Afghanistan. If we are united, then there will be no foreigners here. If we remain united under the umbrella of Islam and embrace each other and create a strong line, no foreigner will be present in Afghanistan,” said Atta Noor.

“Our expectation from this meeting is to reach an agreement on a ceasefire on occasion of Eidul Fitr,” said Noor

Presidential candidate and former National Security Advisor Mohammad Haneef Atmar said he hopes they will have constructive and result-oriented sessions in the next two days in Moscow. “We hope to see serious intra-Afghan talks with the help of the Russian, US, Chinese and other governments in the region,” said Atmar.

“We should reach a stage where we can understand the language of each other. It means we should know what our hearts say,” said Mohammad Mohaqiq, second deputy chief executive.

Taliban officials have been talking to US diplomats for months about the terms of a withdrawal of more than 23,000 US and NATO coalition troops from Afghanistan and have reached a draft agreement on some issues but no new date for the next round of talks has been set and many obstacles remain.

Chief among these is the Taliban refusal to deal directly with President Ashraf Ghani’s Western-backed government in Kabul, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.

Meetings between the Taliban delegation and political figures not formally associated with the government have been seen as a way of preparing the way for full negotiations later. But those contacts are regarded with deep suspicion by many Afghan officials who see them as undermining the legitimacy of the government while reinforcing the position of the Taliban.

The group of politicians attending the Moscow ceremony to mark the centenary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Afghanistan and Russia included many of Ghani’s most powerful political adversaries.