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Lavrov: Russia Calls for Nationwide Dialogue in Afghanistan Involving All Political Actors

© Sputnik / Стрингер / Go to the mediabankTaliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid arrives for the group's first official news conference at a media centre in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid arrives for the group's first official news conference at a media centre in Kabul, Afghanistan.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 19.08.2021
Afghanistan's Western-backed government unexpectedly collapsed over the weekend, less than two weeks after the Taliban began an assault on the country's major cities amid the US and NATO withdrawal which began in May.
Russia is in favour of a national dialogue involving all of Afghanistan's political forces, and welcomes the Taliban's recent statement that they are ready for such dialogue, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said.
"We also welcomed the Taliban's recent statement that they want to enter into a dialogue with other political forces in Afghanistan. A meeting has already been announced with the participation of Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the supreme council of national reconciliation, former president Hamid Karzai and the chairman of the Islamic Renaissance Party [Gulbuddin] Hekmatyar," Lavrov said, speaking at a press conference after talks with his Libyan counterpart, Najla Mangoush, on Thursday.
The Russian foreign minister stressed that Moscow proceeds from the understanding that all of these forces have a desire to negotiate in the interests of the Afghan people, and said that Russia will do everything in its power to encourage talks and to ensure that such dialogue leads to concrete agreements.
In this light, Lavrov said that Russia is ready to resume the so-called "Moscow format" of talks on Afghanistan. He pointed out that in addition to inter-Afghan forces, all five states of Central Asia, plus China, Pakistan, India, Iran and the United States have participated in the Moscow format negotiations in the past.
"We have not made any official proposals yet, but the effectiveness of this group [in] following Afghan negotiations has always been recognised by everyone, and we will be prepared, if it is deemed appropriate, to resume this format," Lavrov said.
Russia began hosting the 'Moscow format' consultations on Afghanistan in April 2017, with the stated objective being to facilitate a national reconciliation process and secure peace in the war-torn country.
The Backstory - Sputnik International, 1920, 19.08.2021
The Backstory
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Moscow has been watching the situation in Afghanistan closely, and recently held large-scale military exercises near the country's borders together with its Tajik and Uzbek allies and partners. Russia expressed surprise at the speed with which the pro-US government in Kabul collapsed to the Taliban, and suggested that the situation was the result of Washington's failure to create a stable government in the country after 20 years of occupation. On Monday, a diplomat from the Russian Embassy in Kabul reported that pro-US Afghan president Ashraf Ghani fled the capital under the escort of cars filled with cash.
Russia continues to view the Taliban a terrorist organisation (Moscow made the designation in 2003), but has expressed a willingness to communicate with the Sunni militant movement's political wing, particularly for the sake of inter-Afghan negotiations, in light of changing geopolitical realities on the ground. Other nations in the region, especially China, have similarly reached out to establish ties with the militant group, possibly hoping to cash in on Afghanistan's recently discovered vast deposits of untapped natural resources, including lithium, gold and rare earth metals. Iran, which has had notoriously poor relations with the Taliban over past decades, has also softened its position, and done its part to facilitate negotiations. On Monday, President Ebrahim Raisi stressed that Iran "invites all groups in Afghanistan to reach a national agreement" and "backs efforts to restore stability" to the country.
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