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By Michelle Nichols
NEW YORK (Reuters) - United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday appointed veteran French diplomat Jean Arnault as his personal envoy on Afghanistan and regional issues.
The appointment comes a day before Russia, China, the United States, Pakistan, a delegation of top Afghan officials and opposition leaders and Taliban negotiators meet in Moscow in an attempt to kickstart deadlocked peace talks.
"The Secretary-General has asked Mr Arnault to assist in the achievement of a political solution to the conflict, working closely with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and regional partners," U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.
Dujarric said earlier on Wednesday that the United Nations was not sending anyone to the talks in Moscow.
U.S. special envoy on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad has been trying to drum up support for a written proposal that includes an interim government and ceasefire, as U.S. President Joe Biden reviews plans for Afghanistan ahead of a May 1 troop withdrawal deadline agreed with the Taliban by the Trump administration.
The Moscow gathering will be followed by a meeting of regional players in the first week of April in Turkey and a summit that Khalilzad has asked the United Nations to organise, styled on a 2001 conference in the Germany city of Bonn.
"Our aim is to best support the people in Afghanistan in reaching peace and in ensuring that the gains that have been obtained ... especially on the rights of women, are not lost in any political discussion. But I don't have any firm dates or meetings to announce for you as of yet," Dujarric said.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Jane Wardell)