MOSCOW: Russia has accredited a diplomat from the Taliban to engage with the new Afghan government but remains concerned about the threat of militant groups spilling over into Russia via Central Asia, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday.
Russia hosted an international conference on Afghanistan last year to try to reach a peace deal and curb violence between the Taliban and the then Afghan government. Russia has labelled the Taliban a “terrorist organisation” but has welcomed their members on numerous occasions for talks.
Since Russia’s mediation efforts, the United States and its allies withdrew their troops from Afghanistan after 20 years there and the Taliban seized power in August as the US-backed government collapsed.
Speaking at an Afghanistan-focused conference in China, Lavrov said that growing trade and economic ties between Afghanistan and countries in the region was contributing to the potential international recognition of their administration.
He said a Taliban envoy was already active in Moscow.
“I would like to note that the first Afghan diplomat who arrived in Moscow last month and was sent by the new authorities has received accreditation at the Russian Foreign Ministry,” he said.
Russia is worried about the potential for fallout in the wider region and the possibility of militants infiltrating the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, which Russia views as its southern defensive buffer.
“The plans of the militant Islamic State group and its supporters to destabilise Central Asian states and export instability to Russia are of particular concern,” Lavrov said.
“The build-up of detachments of Jamaat Ansarullah and the Islamic Movement Uzbekistan around the Afghan-Tajik and Afghan-Uzbek borders are an alarming sign.”
Since the Taliban takeover last year, Moscow has held military exercises in Tajikistan and bolstered hardware at its military base there.
UN seeks $4.4bn in ‘unconditional’ aid
The United Nations appealed for $4.4 billion in “unconditional” humanitarian aid for Afghanistan on Thursday, saying 9 million people faced famine and that families were selling children and organs to survive.
The humanitarian situation has “deteriorated alarmingly” since the Taliban takeover in August and the economy has “all but collapsed”, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said, opening the high-level pledging conference.
But in a nod to donors’ concerns, he also called for the reopening of schools for all students in Afghanistan “without discrimination”, after the Taliban's decision to ban girls from secondary education.
“Some 95 per cent of people do not have enough to eat. Nine million people are at risk of famine. Unicef estimates that a million severely malnourished children are on the verge of death, without immediate action,” he said in a video message.
“People are already selling their children and their body parts in order to feed their families,” Guterres said, drawing on a report earlier this month by the World Food Programme.
UN aid chief Martin Griffiths, speaking from Doha after talks in Kabul this week, said: “I had the firm impression that the door for dialogue with authorities remains open, they want to find a constructive way to work with us.
“They don’t necessarily know how to work with the international community, including the complex question of girls’ education. I hope we can resolve this problem in the future.” At Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital in Kabul he had seen tiny malnourished children and newborns sharing ventilators. The level of human suffering left him “speechless”, Griffiths said.
Ahead of the drive, Britain pledged 286 million pounds ($374 million) for Afghanistan, where six out of every 10 Afghans need aid, much of it food.
“We need to work through the UN to deliver real change for the Afghan people, upholding their rights and holding the Taliban to account,” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said.
Published in Dawn, April 1st, 2022