Russia Invites Taliban to Regional Summit in Moscow

Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (C) and other members of the Taliban delegation arrive to attend an international conference on Afghanistan over the peaceful solution to the conflict in Moscow on March 18, 2021. (Photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Russia has invited the Taliban to attend an October 20 meeting in Moscow alongside representatives from China, India, Iran, and Pakistan to discuss the geopolitical situation in Afghanistan, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported Thursday.

Russia’s presidential envoy to Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, was asked by reporters at a press briefing October 7 if the Kremlin had invited a Taliban delegation to the upcoming summit.

(L-R) US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and Russia's Special Representative on Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov attend a press briefing following an international conference on Afghanistan over the peaceful solution to the conflict in Moscow on March 18, 2021. (Photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Russia’s Special Representative on Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov. (ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images).

“Yes,” Kabulov replied, as quoted by the Russian state-run news agency RIA Novosti. Kabulov referred to the October 20 talks as a “Moscow format” meeting. He did not specify who would represent the Taliban in its delegation.

In addition to the Taliban, “various other Afghan parties” will also be invited to the talks, the Associated Press reported October 7.

Asked by journalists at Thursday’s press conference if Russia plans to send humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, Kabulov said, “This is being worked out.”

He added that Moscow was collecting “cargo” to ship to the impoverished country, which previously relied almost entirely on U.S.-backed funding for food and essentials.

The Taliban, a hardline Sunni group, seized control of Afghanistan on August 15 by ousting the country’s U.S.-backed government from Kabul amid a Western troop withdrawal to end a nearly 20-year-long war.

“Moscow has in recent years hosted Taliban delegations for a series of talks attempting to mediate peace with the Afghan government, which crumbled with the militant group’s offensive. The latest trip took place in July, one month ahead of the Taliban’s overthrow of the government,” the Moscow Times recalled on October 7.

“The Russian military has carried out several live-fire exercises at its base in Tajikistan, an ex-Soviet republic that shares a nearly 1,500-kilometer border with Afghanistan, since the Taliban’s takeover,” the newspaper noted.

The Kremlin technically recognizes the Taliban as a terrorist organization within Russia, though Kabulov on Thursday suggested this formality would not prevent Moscow from holding serious talks with the group on October 20. He stopped short of suggesting that Russia would formally recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan’s new legitimate ruler, which is what the group hopes to achieve among the international community.

In separate comments to the press on October 4, Kabulov said Moscow “would not ‘exclude’ revising the U.N. sanctions regime against the Taliban,” according to AFP.

“But at this stage, we believe it is not expedient to rush,” he added.

While most foreign countries evacuated their embassies in Kabul after the Taliban overtook the capital on August 15, Russia declined to vacate its Kabul embassy. Russia’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Dmitry Zhirnov, met with the Taliban shortly after they deposed Kabul’s U.S.-backed government.

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