Friday 9/17/21
AFGHANISTAN

Russia greets initial comments by Taliban as a 'hopeful sign'

Russia supports a dialogue with all political, ethnic and sectarian forces in Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said
HANDOUT - 26 October 2020, Greece, Athens: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends a joint press conference with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias (not pictured) following their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Athens. Photo: -/Russian Foreign Ministry/dpa - ATTENTION: editorial use only and only if the credit mentioned above is referenced in full
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends a press conference. Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry/dpa.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has greeted initial statements made by the Taliban as a positive sign after the Islamist militants' takeover of Afghanistan, following the withdrawal of US and NATO troops.

"What the Taliban are declaring in Kabul and how they are showing their willingness to respect the opinion of others in practice, that, I think, is a positive signal," Lavrov said on Tuesday, according to Interfax news agency.

He said it was a "hopeful sign" that the Taliban had expressed a willingness to work with other political groups to govern.

Russia supports a dialogue with all political, ethnic and sectarian forces in Afghanistan, he said.

Lavrov also criticized the US and NATO for trying to impose their values on the Afghan people during the past 20 years, saying what is needed now is "respect for the traditions, history and customs" of Afghans.

Russia classifies the Taliban as a terrorist group and Lavrov made it clear that Moscow would not negotiate with terrorists.

However, he said talks should continue with the Taliban's political arm.

Leading members of the Taliban also recently visited Moscow.

Lavrov again said that Russia would not acknowledge the new leadership in Kabul for now. "Like other countries, we are in no hurry to recognize it," he said. On Monday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said this step would depend on the further actions of the Taliban.

Military manoeuvres

Earlier, Russia launched new military manoeuvres in Tajikistan, in response to the Taliban's takeover in Afghanistan.

About 1,000 soldiers stationed in Tajikistan, which neighbours Afghanistan, are involved in the exercise, the Russian army's Central Defence Unit announced on Tuesday, according to Interfax.

The soldiers are to "improve their combat capabilities" on two training grounds in the former Soviet republic, it said. Shooting exercises are planned, including the use of artillery systems.

Russia, which maintains its largest foreign base in Tajikistan, only recently conducted a joint military exercise with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

During the six-day manoeuvre in Tajikistan, 2,500 soldiers trained, among other things, to repel foreign fighters. Russia has pledged to help its Central Asian allies because of the situation in Afghanistan.

In recent weeks, after the withdrawal of foreign troops, the Taliban had taken all provincial capitals at a rapid pace, many without a fight. On Sunday, they also entered Kabul, where troops also put up no resistance.

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