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Putin: ‘Accept the Taliban’, Russia Gets Cozy With Terrorist Group

A Taliban delegation will arrive in Moscow next week for Russia-led talks on the future of Afghanistan, the Russian foreign ministry has announced.

The talks are due to take place on October 20, news agency Tass reported, and will be held under so-called Moscow format established in 2017 which involves Russia, Afghanistan, India, Iran, China and Pakistan.

Before the widely criticized exit of the U.S. military, Taliban leaders held widely publicized talks with China, which said this month group as a legitimate regime.

China and Russia retain a diplomatic presence in Kabul and are seeking to increase influence in Afghanistan following the U.S. departure.

On Thursday, Russian foreign affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on the sidelines of the the Eurasian Women’s Forum: “Next week, we are expecting a representative delegation of the Taliban movement to visit Moscow to take part in the third Moscow format consultations on Afghanistan.”

“We hope that the new authorities in Kabul will deliver on their statements that they can cope with IS on their own, without any outside help,” Zakharova added on Thursday, according to Tass.

“We also noted the Taliban delegation’s two-day visit to Qatar, led by the Afghan Acting Foreign Minister. Negotiations took place there, in particular, with the U.S. Department of State’s representatives,” she said referring to talks in Doha where Taliban leaders asked for American and European help to end Afghanistan’s isolation.

This week, G20 representatives met in Rome and agreed to work together to avoid a humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan, even if it meant having to coordinate with the Taliban, amid serious concerns about the fate of women in the country.

The European Union pledged one billion euros ($1.2bn) in humanitarian aid which would also help neighbouring countries taking in Afghans who have been fleeing since the Taliban took control on August 15.

Although the Taliban is banned as a “terrorist” organization in Russia, President Vladimir Putin has spoken of the need to accept the group in the international fold.

In September, Putin said “the sooner the Taliban enters…the community of civilized nations, the easier it will be to enter into contact, communicate and somehow influence and ask some questions.”

Russia has praised the Taliban’s contributions to security in Kabul and the fight against Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) but has no immediate plans to give diplomatic recognition to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Samuel Ramani, an associate fellow at the London-based RUSI think tank wrote last month.

He said that Russia has engaged in diplomacy with the Taliban but still had reservations about its commitment to combating terrorism and expected that Moscow’s strategy towards Afghanistan will “synthesize diplomacy and deterrence.”

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