MOSCOW: Moscow has invited the Taliban to its biggest annual economic forum and is considering a proposal to remove the group from its terror list, a Russian diplomat was quo­ted as saying on Monday.

Since the Taliban seized power in Aug 2021 as US-led forces withdrew after 20 years, Moscow has been slowly building ties with the Taliban, though the movement is still officially outlawed in Russia.

The foreign and justice ministries have reported to President Vladimir Putin on the issue of removing the ban, Zamir Kabulov, an official at the Russian foreign ministry, told state news agency TASS.

Some questions remain, Kabu­lov was quoted as saying, though he said that an invitation to attend the June 5-8 St Petersburg international economic forum had been extended to the Taliban.

Russia formally label­led the Taliban a terrorist organisation in 2003, tho­ugh it had periodic informal contacts with the movement.

Afghan leaders, Kabu­lov said, were traditionally interested in the purchase of oil products.

The St Petersburg forum, which once hosted CEOs and investment bankers from London and New York, has changed significantly amid the Ukraine war, which has triggered the biggest crisis in Russia’s relations with the West since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

Western investors seeking a slice of Russia’s vast resources have now been replaced by businesses from China, India, Africa and the Middle East.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2024

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