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Russia Backs Plan for Afghanistan Interim Rule with Taliban

The formation of an interim inclusive administration would be a logical solution to the problem of integrating the Taliban into the peaceful political life of Afghanistan, said Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova

AT Monitoring Desk

KABUL: Russia said Friday it backed the Taliban’s integration into a future interim government in Afghanistan, as global powers ramped up efforts to secure a peace deal and end decades of war.

The country’s foreign ministry comments come as a May deadline looms for the United States to end its two-decade military involvement in the ravaged country.

Washington has encouraged the Afghan leadership to work towards establishing an “inclusive” government and proposed talks with the Taliban to secure a peace accord.

“The formation of an interim inclusive administration would be a logical solution to the problem of integrating the Taliban into the peaceful political life of Afghanistan,” Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters ahead of talks next week in Moscow.

But she added that the decision should be made “by the Afghans themselves and should be resolved during negotiations on national reconciliation.”

US President Joe Biden is wrapping up a review on whether to stick to an agreement with the Taliban negotiated by his predecessor Donald Trump who wanted to pull out the final US troops from Afghanistan by May.

The so-called Doha Accord signed in the Qatari capital last year underscored Trump’s desire to end long-running US military involvement.

But the Biden administration has signaled that it wants to take a hard look at Trump’s deal and its repercussions for Afghanistan and regional stability.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote a letter to Afghan leaders encouraging them to consider a “new, inclusive government.” He also proposed that talks take place within weeks in Turkey to seal a comprehensive peace deal with the Taliban.

Blinken’s letter to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said bluntly that Washington feared the “security situation will worsen and the Taliban could make rapid territorial gains” if the United States suddenly withdrew.

Blinken proposed a 90-day reduction in violence that would avoid the Taliban’s annual bloody spring offensive.

He added that Washington was asking the United Nations to convene a meeting of foreign ministers from Afghanistan’s neighbors on ensuring future stability.

But the Afghan leadership has responded to Blinken’s letter with extreme caution.

However, Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh said the country’s fate could not be decided by “20 people in a room”.

Moscow is due to host talks next week between members of the Afghan government and the Taliban, the Kremlin’s latest effort to cement its role as a broker in the conflict, decades after the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan ended.

All the invited participants in the consultations of the expanded “trio” on a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan scheduled to be held in Moscow on March 18 have confirmed their participation, Russian News Agency TASS reported on Friday.

Russian Special Presidential Envoy for Afghanistan and Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Second Asian Department Zamir Kabulov confirmed the development to TASS. “Yes, that’s all for now,” he said.

When asked whether US representatives will take part in the consultations, he said that US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad had likewise confirmed his participation.

On March 11, the US Department of State declined to specify whether US officials would take part in the consultations on Afghanistan in Moscow. On March 9, Kabulov told TASS that Russia had invited the United States, China, Pakistan, representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban group (outlawed in Russia), as well as Afghan political figures, to Moscow for consultations on a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan.

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