Russia, China and Pakistan are willing to provide aid to Afghanistan, the Russian foreign ministry said yesterday, but Moscow said it was not yet ready to recognise the Taliban government.
The promise of humanitarian aid and economic support came after talks between Russian, Chinese and Pakistani officials, who will be joined by representatives of Afghanistan’s Islamist rulers at a meeting in Moscow today.
But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia was withholding recognition from the Taliban while waiting for them to fulfil promises they made when they took power, including on the political and ethnic inclusivity of the new government.
Critics say the former rebel movement is backtracking on pledges not to sideline women and minorities, or persecute foes.
“Official recognition of the Taliban is not under discussion for now,” Lavrov told reporters. “Like most of other influential countries in the region, we are in contact with them. We are prodding them to fulfil the promises they made when they came to power.” In mid-August, the Afghan government collapsed as the United States and allies withdrew troops after 20 years on the ground, leading the Taliban to seize power in a lightning offensive.
Russia, which fought its own disastrous war in Afghanistan from 1979-1989, is trying to seize the diplomatic initiative to avoid instability in the wider region that could damage its interests. In particular it is worried by the possibility of militants seeping into the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, a region Moscow views as a defensive buffer.
Other Russian officials have tempered expectations for today’s talks. The United States said it would not join this round but planned to do so in the future. Zamir Kabulov, President Vladimir Putin’s special representative on Afghanistan, said last week he did not expect any major breakthrough at the talks.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov described them as “an attempt to know what will happen in Afghanistan going forward.”
US denies access to Afghan central bank reserves
Deputy US Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo yesterday said he sees no situation where the Taliban, who regained power in Afghanistan in August, would be allowed access to Afghan central bank reserves, which are largely held in the United States.
The Taliban have called for the United States to lift a block on more than $9bn of Afghan central bank reserves held outside the country as the government struggles to contain a deepening economic crisis.
“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 took back power in Afghanistan in August after the United States pulled out its troops, almost 20 years after the Islamists were ousted by US-led forces following the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Washington and other Western countries are grappling with difficult choices as a severe humanitarian crisis looms large in Afghanistan. They are trying to work out how to engage with the Taliban without granting them the legitimacy they seek, while ensuring humanitarian aid flows into the country.
“Our goal is to make sure that we are implementing our sanctions regime against the Taliban and the Haqqani network, but at the same time allowing for the permissible flow of humanitarian assistance into the country,” Adeyemo said. The Haqqani network is a group affiliated with the Taliban and blamed for some of the worst suicide attacks of the war. Adeyemo said the Treasury was taking every step it could within its sanctions regime to make clear to humanitarian groups that Washington wants to facilitate the flow of aid to the Afghan people, but warned that for humanitarian assistance to flow, the Taliban have to allow it to happen within the country.
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