Moscow Hosts International Talks With Taliban to Discuss Afghan Crisis
Russia has lauded the efforts of Afghanistan’s Taliban government to improve the national security and political situation but stressed the need for the Islamist group to ensure inclusivity in its governance to achieve a stable peace in the war-torn country.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made the remarks Wednesday while opening a Moscow-hosted international meeting to discuss the Afghan crisis with Taliban leaders and delegates from 10 countries, including China, Pakistan, Iran and India.
“A new administration is in power [in Kabul]. We note the efforts they take to stabilize the military and political situation and set up work for the state apparatus,” Lavrov said.
“[However], we see the formula for its successful solution mainly in the formation of a truly inclusive government, which should fully reflect the interests of all, not only ethnic, but also political forces of the country,” said the Russian chief diplomat.
Lavrov said Moscow believes it’s time to mobilize global efforts to provide Kabul with effective financial, economic and humanitarian assistance to help prevent a humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan.
Taliban Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Salam Hanafi, while addressing the meeting, renewed a call for the global community to recognize the new government in Kabul and again demanded the United States unfreeze about $10 billon in Afghan central bank in foreign reserves.
The senior Taliban leader defended his interim government as “already inclusive” and said they would not accept any deal under pressure, according to the text of the speech Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid shared with media.
Lavrov had made it clear in the run-up to the Moscow meeting that the discussions would not cover the issue of granting recognition to the Taliban, stressing the need for the group to live up to “expectations” on human rights.
Hanafi’s speech to the meeting in the Russian capital came a day after Deputy U.S. Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said he sees no situation where the Taliban would be allowed access to the county’s reserves.
“We believe that it’s essential that we maintain our sanctions against the Taliban but at the same time find ways for legitimate humanitarian assistance to get to the Afghan people. That’s exactly what we’re doing,” Adeyemo told the Senate Banking Committee.
The Taliban regained control of Afghanistan in August after the United States and Western countries withdrew all their troops almost 20 years after the Islamist group was removed from power by the U.S.-led military invasion for harboring al-Qaida planners of terrorist attacks on America.
The U.S. and other Western countries are working out how to engage with the Taliban without giving them the legitimacy they seek, while facilitating the flow of humanitarian aid to Afghans.
Adeyemo said the Treasury was taking every step it could within its sanctions program to make clear to humanitarian groups that Washington wants to facilitate the flow of aid into Afghanistan.
Chinese officials at Wednesday’s meeting renewed their resolve to work with the Taliban to help them deal with the economic and humanitarian challenges facing the country.
Washington also was invited to the talks in Moscow, but U.S. officials cited logistical reasons for not attending them.
The Taliban are under fire at home and internationally for reneging on some of their pledges to protect the rights of women and minorities.
The hardline group is also being accused of persecuting members of the ousted Afghan government, charges Taliban officials reject as unfounded and politically motivated propaganda.
Russia says its diplomatic offensive to garner support for Kabul stems from concerns continued instability would encourage terrorist groups to threaten security of Afghanistan’s neighbors and the wider region.
Lavrov highlighted those fears while addressing Wednesday’s gathering in Moscow and urged the Taliban to deliver on their pledges of preventing terrorist groups from threatening Russia’s “friends and allies.”
The Afghan branch of Islamist State, known as IS-Khorasan, has in recent weeks carried out dozens of bomb attacks, killing and injuring hundreds of people across Afghanistan, most of them civilians. The violence is of major concern to neighboring countries and is raising questions about the Taliban’s ability to counter the growing terror threat.
Reuters contributed some information for this report.