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Russia considers removing Taliban from list of terror groups ahead of upcoming cultural forum

Putin aide says Moscow is engaging Taliban in conversation as they are Afghanistan’s ‘de factor authority

Arpan Rai
Tuesday 02 April 2024 13:33
Taliban fail to appoint any women in all male, all Taliban government

Russia is considering removing the Taliban from its list of designated terrorist organisations, officials in Moscow said on Tuesday as Vladimir Putin eyes support from the hardline Islamist group in central Asia.

The Russian president’s close aide and Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia was working on removing Afghanistan’s Taliban from its list of banned terrorist organisations.

Responding to a reporter’s question, Mr Peskov defended Russia’s engagement with the Taliban “because it is the de facto authority in Afghanistan”.

His comments came a day after the Russian Foreign Ministry said it was considering “terminating the Taliban movement’s status of a terrorist organisation”.

“The final decision will be made by the country’s top political leadership," the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

If the Taliban is removed from the list of terrorist organisations, Russia will become the first country in the world to officially legitimise the fundamentalist rulers of Afghanistan.

The Taliban has not been recognised as the official administration of Afghanistan by the international community as the group continues to keep millions of girls and women out of schools and colleges for more than two years.

Their recognition, according to the UN, is “nearly impossible” while the severe restrictions on women and girls are in place.

The latest diplomatic consideration from Moscow comes at a time Russian officials are further strengthening their ties with the Taliban for a cultural forum in May.

A delegation of the Taliban has been invited to participate in the “Russia-Islamic World: Kazan Forum”, said Russia’s special presidential representative for Afghanistan and director of the Foreign Ministry’s Second Asia Department, Zamir Kabulov.

The forum is being hosted by Moscow in the Russian city of Kazan between 14 and 19 May, which it sees as an economic cooperation event to boost ties with Islamic countries.

This is not the first time the Russian city is hosting the Taliban. Kazan city has previously hosted Taliban representatives in September last year where they engaged with Russian officials on regional threats and spoke on creating an inclusive government.

Shortly after, Russian officials said Moscow will keep helping Afghanistan on its own and through the UN food agency World Food Programme.

In contrast with the Western position on the Taliban’s grip on Afghanistan, Russia and China have commenced inking costly development and infrastructure projects with them.

In September last year, as the Taliban clocked two years of rule in Afghanistan, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign affairs backed the Islamists.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs believes that the security and stability of Afghanistan and the region are interconnected. Therefore, the Islamic Emirate, as an accountable government, reaffirms to the regional countries that it will not allow any individual or group to act against the stability of the region, and to this end, has taken serious steps against antagonist groups and drug cultivation and trafficking,” it said in a statement.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov had also accused the western countries for “complete failure” in Afghanistan and said they should “bear the primary burden of rebuilding the country”.

Even as it seized power by force in Afghanistan in mid-August 2021 after the US and Nato troops pulled out, the Taliban has increasingly and steadily eliminated millions of women in Afghanistan by banning them from public spaces.

The harsh edicts, seen in a repeat of the Taliban’s previous rule of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, include a blanket ban on women from almost all jobs and public spaces like gyms, beauty salons and national parks.

Countries like the US and the UK along with the larger western nations in Europe have denied recognising the Taliban as official leaders of Afghanistan until the basic human rights of girls and women are restored by removal of these bans.

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