Is Russia upstaging Doha talks with ‘Moscow format’ to bridge Afghanistan’s divide?

Moscow is also backing the dialogue initiative between Former President Hamid Karzai, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah and leader of the Islamic Party of Afghanistan Gulbuddin Hekmatyar with the Taliban representatives.
taliban afghanistan

New Delhi, Aug 21: Russia has called for a nationwide dialogue in Afghanistan even as calls for a ‘Resistance 2.0’ movement against the Taliban takeover are growing stronger, especially in the Panjshir Valley where Ahmad Massoud and former Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh are reuniting their forces and followers.

When asked if Moscow is ready to work with the Taliban, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday that the group does not control the entire country yet.

“The Taliban does not yet control the entire territory of Afghanistan. There are reports about the situation in the Panjshir Gorge, where the resistance forces led by Vice President Amrullah Saleh and Ahmad Massoud are now concentrated. This makes our position even more consistent,” said Lavrov.

India Narrative had reported Thursday on how an anti-Taliban coalition seems to be forming in Panjshir, a northern province still free from Taliban rule and from where Ahmad Shah Massoud – better known as the ‘Lion of Panjshir’ – had led a heroic fight against the Soviets, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Russia said that it has always advocated the need for an urgent transition to a nationwide dialogue with the participation of all opposing Afghan forces and ethnic and religious groups in that country. It said that a national dialogue will make it possible to form a representative government which, with the support of the Afghan public, will proceed to develop the final arrangements for the multi-ethnic country.

Lavrov stressed that the Moscow format continues to be recognised as the most effective mechanism for promoting external support for an Afghan settlement. Russia’s sharper focus on “Moscow format” comes at a time when faith in the Doha talks, which eventually led to the one-sided takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban, has dropped.

The Moscow format was introduced in 2017 on the basis of the six-party mechanism for consultations between special representatives from Russia, Afghanistan, India, Iran, China and Pakistan. The main objective of the format is to facilitate the national reconciliation process in Afghanistan and secure peace in the country as soon as possible.

“I’m convinced that the Moscow format has the best chance to succeed since the situation has already taken on a region-wide dimension, and neighbouring countries and countries located further away from Afghanistan are responding to it,” said the Russian Foreign Minister.

“No official proposals have been made so far. However, the effectiveness of this ‘backup group’ behind the Afghan talks has invariably been recognised by everyone. We stand ready to resume the Moscow format, if needed,” he added.

Russia had on Tuesday said that just like all other countries, it is not in a hurry to recognise the Taliban, saying it is observing “positive processes” on the streets of Kabul, where the situation is “fairly calm” and the Taliban are “effectively enforcing” law and order. Moscow is also backing the dialogue initiative between Former President Hamid Karzai, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah and leader of the Islamic Party of Afghanistan Gulbuddin Hekmatyar with the Taliban representatives.

“We operate on the premise that all members of this group said they were willing to meet and negotiate in the interests of the Afghan people. We will encourage these processes in every possible way and strive to translate these intentions into concrete actions,” stressed Lavrov on Thursday.

Things, of course, continue to change at a quick pace on ground zero. With reports of several former top officers of Afghan forces – including General Hasib Panjshiri, General Hamid Saifi, Commander Khalid Amiri – also joining the resistance movement in Panjshir, it will be a really long road to peace in Afghanistan.

(The content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)

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