Lavrov and Taliban talks: key results

Friday, 31 May, 2019 - 11:58

The meeting of Sergey Lavrov and the officials of the “Taliban” group (banned in Russia since 2003) was a topic for a heated discussion on social media. The Islamist group defended Chechnya’s independence back in 2000-s and called for jihad against Russia, whilst Russia Ministry of Defense repeatedly threatened to make a preventive military move at the terrorists’ headquarters in Afghanistan.

In 2017, Sergey Lavrov denied financial and military backing for “Taliban” and emphasized that Russia was only willing to contact the "Taliban" if “Russia or the neighboring countries would be endangered, or when the Taliban will be finally ready to hold peace talks”. It appears that the fact of diplomatic talks with activists presumably incapable of it seems unlikely and is only possible if Russia’s so called “peace intentions” hide their military purposes. 

To celebrate a century of settling diplomatic relationship with Afghanistan, Russia took relationship with “Taliban” to a new level. The key point for Lavrov, as before, was to call a truce in Afghanistan, which made the talks stall for three days: it was more important for “Taliban” to ensure Russia’s role in persuading Washington to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. Until that happens, no talks with Afghanistan’s current government are possible, they claimed. Abdul Kayum Kuchai, Afghanistan’s ambassador in Russia, was among the meeting guests, in point of fact representing the current Afghanistan’s government.

Nevertheless, Mohammed Sohail Shaheen, “Taliban” ‘s spokesman in Qatar, underlined in his press-conference on Thursday the urgency of Afghanistan truce, for this will “positively affect the whole region”. The high-priority problem in handling the Afghan Crisis, as he claimed, is to make the USA get their troops out of Afghanistan, but it’s uncertain when it will happen. Only after that “Taliban” will be ready for three-way talks with the current Afghanistan government, provided the movement’s officials will have their seats in the new government.

Back in 2015, Zamir Kabulov, then – the special representative on Afghanistan for the president of Russia – told the "Vzglyad" newspaper (the View”) that RF and Taliban have more in common than it might seem, including the need to fight IS which has become a much larger threat. In his introductory speech, Lavrov also underlined the urgency to fight drug business.

The Taliban are visiting Kremlin for the third time. They were in Moscow before, in November 2018 and February 2019 – to hold peace talks as well. The meeting actively chastised on the Internet, is in reality another step to ceasefire – the step the Taliban were not ready to make a year ago. 

The final conclusion was Taliban’s promise “not to attack Russia or neighboring countries”. The date for further talks is yet to be discussed, but the meeting itself is imminent.

With the authority of Russia, the ever-growing radical actor is taken under the wing of a more powerful ally in confronting the US’ troops. As for the RF, acting as a truce agent, they turn the relationship with “Taliban” into something more than religious-based conflicts.