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Taliban visit Moscow to woo Russia, harp on gains

AT News

KABUL: A Taliban delegation is visiting Moscow, in a bid to allay fears that the group’s territorial expansion won’t threaten Russia’s allies in Central Asia – the latest in a constellation of the Taliban’s trips across the region as part of peace process.

Representatives of the Taliban flew to Russia on Thursday in what is seen as their bid to woo Moscow and offer assurances that they won’t pose any threat to Russia or its allies in Central Asia in the light of their quickly growing gains in the battle against the Afghan government.

At a news conference on Friday, Taliban delegates made bold claims about their battlefield gains saying they controlled two thirds of Afghanistan.

The group also sought to reassure that they won’t allow the country to be used as a launching pad for terrorism against its neighbors.

A Taliban official said in the conference that the group seeks to create an all-inclusive state with participation of all representatives of Afghanistan. Shahabuddin Delawar said the Taliban won’t allow the Islamic State to use Afghanistan as their sanctuary, and that they will fight against drug production. “Afghan territory… and our territory will never be used against our neighbours,” he said.

Concerned about escalation of hostilities in northern Afghanistan, Russian envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov, who met with the Taliban on Friday, urged them to tame the scourge of violence from spreading beyond the country’s borders, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry. Kabulov is also said to have discussed the next inter-Afghan meeting with the Taliban delegation.

Worried about increasing militant threat across borders with Afghanistan, Russia recently floated the idea of using its largest base in Tajikistan to fortify the volatile frontiers. Kremlin has also called on warring parties in Afghanistan to show restraint as fighting rages on unabated in the northern region.

“We will do everything, including using the capacity of the Russian military base on Tajikistan’s border with Afghanistan, in order to prevent any aggressive moves against our allies,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned Wednesday.

The Taliban delegation told the same news conference that the group would respect the rights of ethnic minorities and all Afghan citizens should have the right to a decent education in the framework of Islamic law and Afghan traditions.

Another Taliban official Sohail Shaheen, in response to the question whether the attack on the provincial capital and districts is not a violation of the agreement, said: “We agreed with the Americans that they will leave within 14 months, we will not attack when they come out. “We will not attack the provinces except through an agreement.”

He says that the issue of their attacks is not part of the agreement but the internal issue of Afghanistan.

This is as representatives of Afghan government and Taliban are not expected to meet in Moscow. “This has not been discussed yet. Let’s see what happens next, this issue will be discussed in the next meetings,” Sputnik quoted Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem as saying.

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