Russia called for major international aid to help the Taliban control the situation in Afghanistan on Wednesday as it hosted the radical movement for the first time since the chaotic US withdrawal in August brought it to power.
It’s time to “mobilise the resources of the international community to provide Kabul with effective financial, economic and humanitarian help,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. He cautioned, though that a lasting solution to the crisis gripping the country depends on the Taliban inviting other political forces into the government.
“There is a new administration in power and this indisputable fact puts a great responsibility on the Taliban,” Lavrov said.
“We note their efforts to stabilise the military-political situation in the country but a lasting peace remains
to be achieved. This depends above all on the establishment of a genuinely inclusive government.”
Lavrov said Russia is sending another batch of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, though delivery volumes have been relatively modest so far. While Russia, like China, kept its embassy open in Kabul as Western governments scrambled to evacuate their diplomats, it hasn’t recognised the Taliban’s rule. The interim government is dominated by Taliban hardliners.
A deputy prime minister of the acting Afghan government, Abdul Salam Hanafi, who played an important role in peace negotiations with the US, is the most senior figure attending the Moscow talks. Ten countries are taking part.
The US, which previously took part in the so-called “Moscow Format” talks, isn’t participating this time because of the resignation of US envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad. He’s been replaced by his deputy, Tom West.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has urged the US to gradually unfreeze Afghan assets, warning that the lack of funds may push the Taliban into arms- and drug-trafficking.
The European Union earlier this month announced a billion euro ($1.16 billion) emergency humanitarian aid package.
Putin last week told counterparts from the ex-Soviet Union that there’s a real threat of an upsurge in extremist activity in the region following the Taliban takeover.
Russia estimates that there are 2,000 IS fighters massed in northern Afghanistan whose leaders are planning to spread their influence to central Asian states and Russian regions, he said.
Amid security fears, Russia is organising an evacuation flight for its citizens, the state-run Tass news service reported, citing the Russian ambassador in Afghanistan.