Members of the political delegation of the Afghan Taliban movement attend talks with Afghan representatives in Moscow (AP)
MOSCOW: Russia hosted talks on Afghanistan on Wednesday involving senior representatives of the Taliban and other factions, a round of diplomacy underscoring Moscow’s influence.
Opening the talks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed that “forming a truly inclusive government that fully reflects the interests not only of all ethnic groups but of all political forces in the country” is necessary to achieve a stable peace in Afghanistan.
Russia had worked for years to establish contacts with the Taliban, even though it designated the group as a terrorist organization in 2003 and never removed it from the list. Any contact with such groups is punishable under Russian law, but the Foreign Ministry has responded to questions about the apparent contradiction by saying that their exchanges with the Taliban are essential to help stabilize Afghanistan.
The Soviet Union fought a 10-year war in Afghanistan that ended with the withdrawal of its troops in 1989. In recent years, Moscow has made a strong comeback as an influential agent of power in international talks on Afghanistan, hosting representatives of the Taliban. and members of other factions. for bilateral and multilateral meetings.
Unlike many other countries, Russia has not evacuated its embassy in Kabul and its ambassador has maintained regular contacts with the Taliban after they seized the Afghan capital in August.
Lavrov in his opening speech at the conference praised the Taliban for their efforts to stabilize the situation in the country and ensure the functioning of state structures.
Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin noted that there should be no rush to officially recognize the Taliban as the new rulers of Afghanistan, but stressed the need for talks with them.
At the same time, he emphasized the security challenges posed by the Islamic State group and other militants based in northern Afghanistan, noting that drug trafficking from Afghanistan will continue to present a challenge.
Russia vowed to provide military assistance to its former Soviet allies in Central Asia to help counter the threats, and held a series of joint drills in Afghanistan’s neighbor Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
Another comprehensive military exercise has started this week in Tajikistan involving 5,000 soldiers, more than 700 military vehicles and fighter jets.