Russia expects to hold a new round of consultations on Afghanistan later this month with China and the U.S. plus Pakistan on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, Russia’s Special Envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov told Anadolu Agency.
At the prospective meeting, Russia hopes to help the U.S. and Taliban overcome the impasse in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump canceling talks at Camp David with the Taliban and the Afghan government earlier this month, apparently on the verge of an agreement.
“We have been providing diplomatic assistance,” said Kabulov, pledging consultations with both sides as well as with the regional partners to reopen the talks.
Kabulov said Russia is stressing the need to continue the dialogue, while the Taliban has “certified its readiness to retake its place at the negotiating table.”
“In addition, we count on holding consultations with our American partners in the nearest future and urge them to return to the dialogue,” he added.
“We also maintain contact with colleagues from other countries on the Afghan settlement, discussing the pause in the U.S.-Taliban dialogue. In the same vein, we expect that we will be able to hold the next round of the Russia-China-U.S. ‘Troika’ meetings with the integration of Pakistan on the sidelines of the 74th UN General Assembly in New York.”
‘When diplomats fall silent, guns begin to speak’
Moscow is sure that there is no alternative to a political and diplomatic path to Afghan settlement and is looking to a resumption of the talks between the U.S. and Taliban with the signing of a peace accord as an outcome, Kabulov said.
“According to a well-known saying, when diplomats fall silent, guns begin to speak. Unfortunately, the protracting of the ‘pause’ in the negotiation process leads to an escalation of hostilities. We are already witnessing an increase in armed activity on the part of both pro-government forces and the armed opposition,” said Kabulov.
The diplomat stressed that “a new cycle of violence” leads to more civilian casualties, more suffering for the people of Afghanistan, and more refugees and destruction.
“Therefore we call on the parties to refrain from escalating hostilities and to return to the negotiating table as soon as possible,” Kabulov said.
Another impact the current crisis has on Afghan political life is reviving the presidential elections set for Sept. 28, as the U.S.-Taliban deal had suggested forming an interim government with the movement’s representation, he said.
“The planned signing of a peace agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban would have put the presidential elections in Afghanistan on the back burner, as there was a possibility of their cancellation due to the formation of an interim government with the participation of the Taliban.
“Now, with the negotiation process frozen, the issue of voting has become real again. Elections are scheduled for Sept. 28 this year, and if there is no progress in the situation between the U.S. and the Taliban movement before that, then, obviously, the vote will take place at the appointed time,” Kabulov said.
If this happens, Kabulov urged consideration of the lessons of the 2014 presidential elections and last year’s parliamentary elections in Afghanistan, during which he said “there were significant violations.”
“We count on the current vote to be held as openly and honestly as possible, so that its results will be credible for the people of Afghanistan,” he said.
Lack of unified US position on deal hinders peace process
The envoy said it was likely that the U.S. will use the halt in talks to push for more concessions from the Taliban, but he doubts the group will make them, as it has a “hardline stance,” he said.
“The months of work carried out by U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad for the purpose of finding mutually acceptable terms of the agreement with the group deserve a high positive assessment, making any more concessions even less probable,” he added.
On why the talks were abruptly called off, Kabulov dismissed Trump’s pointing the finger at the Taliban killing a U.S. soldier, saying: “Indeed, terrorist attacks by the Taliban took place before. We believe that the death of an American serviceman in the course of another terrorist act of the Taliban was only a pretext for the announcement by the U.S. president of the termination of talks with the Afghan armed opposition. The real reason probably lies in the absence of a unified position in Washington on the issue of concluding an agreement with the Taliban.”
Nevertheless, Moscow hopes for a peaceful resolution of the current crisis and achieving peace in Afghanistan, first by finding a compromise between the U.S. and the Taliban, and then by reaching a sustainable peace through all-embracing intra-Afghan talks.
“After the meeting was called off, Kabul blamed the Taliban and drew attention to the need for a cease-fire to advance the Afghan peace process. The Taliban, in turn, declared its readiness both to continue fighting against the United States and the Afghan government and to return to the negotiating table with the Americans, to sign the agreement, previously worked out in Doha, and then to begin inclusive intra-Afghan peace talks,” said Kabulov.
He added: “I hope that it is this second scenario that all parties will make efforts to implement.”
The raging Afghan conflict is in its 18th year, with thousands of lives lost and millions forced to flee their homes. The UN has repeatedly called for the urgent need to seize opportunities for peace in the region.