BISHKEK (TCA) — Russia has called for urgent talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, while the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said that Afghanistan is getting closer to holding peace talks with the Taliban as a result of a new Afghan strategy put in place by the United States last year.
“We strongly recommend that negotiations start as soon as possible… to put an end to the civil war,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on January 17.
The ministry said that Moscow firmly supported an early start to direct talks “in the interest of ending a fratricidal civil war” and that it was “ready to provide an appropriate platform”.
Moscow has in recent months become increasingly concerned that Afghanistan might become a new staging ground for Central Asian extremists pushed out of Syria and Iraq after the defeat of Daesh in the region, TOLOnews reported.
Moscow claims such a scenario could destabilize Russia’s Central Asian neighbors and threaten its own security.
The remarks by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley at the UN in New York on January 17 about peace talks with the Taliban came amid reports that Taliban negotiators held exploratory talks on resuming peace negotiations during a visit to the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, this week, RFE/RL reported.
“We are seeing that we’re closer to talks with the Taliban and the peace process than we’ve seen before,” Haley said, briefing reporters after taking part in a weekend visit to Kabul by 15 members of the UN Security Council.
Haley said Afghan officials told the UN envoys that “they’re starting to see the Taliban concede, they are starting to see them move towards coming to the table” as a result of a new strategy the United States put in place last summer that has given the U.S. military a freer hand to work with Afghan forces to defeat the Taliban.
“They feel confident that the Taliban will be coming to the table,” Haley said. “The U.S. policy on Afghanistan is working.”
Haley said Afghanistan’s leaders asked the UN Security Council members to support the peace process and military gains in Afghanistan by putting more pressure on Pakistan to stop providing what they said were sanctuaries for the Afghan Taliban on its territory.
“They did ask us for consensus to put further pressure on Pakistan to come to the table and change their behavior,” Haley said.
Pakistan denies providing sanctuary for the Taliban.
Haley did not specify what measures the UN Security Council could take to pressure Pakistan, but it does have the power to impose sanctions. The United States recently froze payments of military aid to Pakistan, citing its alleged failure to act against militants.