On May 29, the UN Security Council had been expected to vote on lifting sanctions from the Taliban in accordance with an agreement signed between the movement and the US in Doha on Feb. 29.

But the issue will not be raised because some conditions stipulated by the deal have yet to be met, Russia’s presidential envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview.

“This was supposed to be done by May 29 on condition that the inter-Afghan talks had to start by March 10, but they have not yet been launched,” he said.

“This process is being delayed due to the unfinished exchange of prisoners between the parties to the conflict and the absence of a negotiating team from Kabul, which was not formed due to differences between [Afghan President] Ashraf Ghani and [Ghani’s political rival] Abdullah Abdullah. But even after these politicians made an agreement on May 17, the Taliban declared its non-recognition.”

The issue of lifting sanctions from members of the Taliban “is an integral part of the process of transferring the Taliban from terrorist organizations to a political structure”, and integrating it into the peaceful life of the country, according to Kabulov.

He expects the UN Security Council to put the issue on its agenda after representatives of Kabul, other political forces, and the Taliban begin direct inclusive inter-Afghan negotiations on national reconciliation.

Keeping military wing in check

Asked about the Taliban’s ability to control its military wing and force it to adhere to agreements reached with the US, Kabulov said recent developments show its political office in Doha, Qatar is “more or less successfully controlling the situation in the ranks of the movement.”

“So far we see that the Taliban leadership is more or less successfully controlling the situation in the ranks of the movement. This is confirmed by the Taliban’s compliance with the seven-day period of reducing violence just before the signing of the agreement with the US in February this year, as well as their compliance with the terms of this document related to non-aggression against foreign military contingents in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the Doha agreement does not provide for the cessation of Taliban’s military operations against government forces,” he said.

Moscow continues its efforts to achieve intra-Afghan reconciliation, although its relations with Kabul are not at their best, the diplomat added.

“Unfortunately, not a very rosy picture in Russian-Afghan relations was formed, through no fault of ours,” he explained.

Kabul of 2 minds

“In recent years, we have seen a cool attitude from Kabul both to the deepening of bilateral cooperation and to our initiatives on the track of Afghan national reconciliation. This also applies to Afghan side’s refusal to send a government delegation to the Moscow format meeting in November 2018 and the mixed reaction to the first meeting of the inter-Afghan dialogue in Moscow in February 2019.”

So Kabul supports Moscow’s efforts in words but opposes them in deeds, he said, telling how the Afghan leadership is simultaneously manifesting its interest in starting a dialogue with the armed opposition, while hindered the gathering of the Moscow conference, organized to facilitate this process.

“We look forward to positive changes in this situation in the future,” the envoy said.

But Moscow continues to play an active role in the Afghan peace process and every time there are difficulties, it makes some efforts.

So on May 18, Kabulov held quadripartite video consultations with China’s special envoy for Afghanistan Liu Jian, Pakistan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Safdar Hayat, and Iran’s special envoy for Afghanistan Mohammad Taherianfard, with a focus on the importance of implementing the agreement between the US and the Taliban.

“The potential of the Moscow format of consultations on Afghanistan, as well as contacts within the expanded Russia-China-US Troika with the participation of Pakistan, can certainly be used to push the implementation of the Doha agreements and launch of inter-Afghan negotiations. We will continue to work with all interested parties in the direction of early progress in an inclusive inter-Afghan dialogue on peace,” he concluded.

The US invaded Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and the 19 years of US involvement plus related conflicts have cost the lives of over 100,000 civilians and forced millions to flee their homes. The UN has repeatedly urged that opportunities for peace in the region be seized.

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