Russia sending mixed signals on Taliban

Russia, which became an important player after the US exit from Afghanistan, has been walking a thin line on the Taliban, staying away from outrightly recognizing the hardline Islamist regime while, at the same time, stressing the importance of continuing engagement with the Taliban

Oct 30, 2021
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Russia sending mixed signals on Taliban

Russia, which became an important player after the US exit from Afghanistan, has been walking a thin line on the Taliban, staying away from outrightly recognizing the hardline Islamist regime while, at the same time, stressing the importance of continuing engagement with the Taliban. Last week Russian President Vladimir Putin said that his country was moving towards removing the Taliban from its list of terrorist groups after the crucial Moscow Format talks on Afghanistan. However, he added a caveat, saying they expected the Taliban to create conditions accordingly in the country.

He further added that the decision to remove the Taliban from the list of terrorist organizations was being taken within the United Nations. Russia had in 2003 described the Taliban as a "terrorist organization". 

On Friday, Russia's UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said no one was in a hurry to recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan's legitimate government, signaling that Moscow is not ready to allow the Islamists to represent Afghanistan at the United Nations.

Importantly, despite the issue of inclusivity of the interim government formed by the Taliban, Moscow does not seem to have encouraged any armed resistance by ethnic leaders of the erstwhile Afghan government. 

"[The establishment of the Council] has been initiated by one of the leaders of the Islamic Society of Afghanistan Atta Muhammad Nur, Marshal Abdul Rashid Dostum, former Vice President of the country Younus Qanooni,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday. “We urge all ethnic and political forces to renounce belligerent rhetoric and strive to complete the national reconciliation process," she added.

He further said the unilateral sanctions on Taliban leaders won’t be removed right away and would take time. "The question of recognition will arise when the international community makes sure that the promises and commitments that the authorities announced will be delivered," Nebenzia said.

Russia maintained its embassy in Kabul after the Taliban takeover in August. However, Moscow has continuously stressed making the government inclusive, meaning the inclusion of all other ethnic groups. The Moscow envoy also referred to the Taliban's pledges that included upholding human rights, particularly those of women and girls, and combating terrorism and drugs.

The United Nations is considering rival claims on who should represent Afghanistan. The Taliban nominated their Doha-based spokesman Suhail Shaheen as UN ambassador, while Ghulam Isaczai - the UN envoy representing the government ousted by the Taliban - is seeking to remain in the country's seat.

On the Taliban’s claim to Afghanistan’s seat in the UN, he said the credentials represented by the Taliban’s appointee came from an authority no one currently recognized. A nine-member UN credentials committee, which includes Russia, China, and the United States, will take up the issue next month. 

(SAM) 

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