Russia to Host Multilateral Talks on Afghanistan November 16

Russia said Wednesday it will host a multilateral meeting scheduled for November 16 to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.

Special Afghan envoys from China, India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are expected to attend the gathering of what is known as the Moscow format of consultations on Afghanistan.

“The discussion to focus on the military-political, socioeconomic and humanitarian situation in Afghanistan as well as coordinating efforts to strengthen regional security,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told a news conference in Moscow. She shared no other details.

Russian officials have confirmed that there will be no participation by Afghanistan’s Islamist Taliban government at the talks, even though it took part in the last session of the Moscow format meeting held in October 2021.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday his government would conduct a detailed briefing for both the Taliban and other Afghan political forces following the planned huddle in the Russian capital. He was referring to former Afghan government officials and political figures who fled the country after the Taliban takeover for fear reprisals.

“We maintain regular contact with the Taliban representatives that will be told about the agenda of the Moscow format meeting. We have no secrets from them,” Lavrov told reporters in Moscow.

He renewed his government’s call for the Taliban to ensure they govern Afghanistan through a politically inclusive system and ease restrictions on women’s access to work and education.

“We have not yet achieved the desired result. We do not believe our colleagues that are in power in Kabul are moving fast enough in fulfilling their announced commitments to their people,” Lavrov added.

The Taliban foreign ministry has dismissed Russia-hosted talks as “incomplete” without its representation at the meeting.

“Fortunately, Afghanistan now has an independent, accountable & legitimate government that has managed to establish effective security, safeguarded borders & engaged positively with neighboring, regional & world countries in political, economic & security matters,” said a ministry statement posted online last week.

“Therefore, the absence of the Afghan government from such meetings can have an adverse effect on engagement,” the statement cautioned.

The Moscow consultative format was initiated in 2016 in a bid to promote political reconciliation between the then-internationally backed Kabul government and the Taliban, who were at the time waging a deadly insurgency against Afghan security forces and their U.S.-led NATO partners.

The Taliban regained control of Afghanistan in August 2021 when all U.S.-led foreign troops withdrew from the country after battling the insurgents for nearly two decades.

Since then, the new Islamist rulers have instructed Afghan women to cover their faces in public and avoid long road trips unless accompanied by a male relative. Most female public sector employees have been told to stay at home, and teenage girls are barred from attending secondary schools from grade seven to 12.

Foreign governments have not yet formally recognized the Taliban, saying they need to ease curbs on women if they want legitimacy for their rule.

The Taliban dismiss criticism of their governance, maintaining it is in line with Afghan culture and Islamic law.

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