Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's remarks at the third meeting of the Moscow format consultations on Afghanistan, Moscow, October 20, 2021
I am pleased to welcome you to a meeting of the Moscow format consultations on Afghanistan in Moscow.
We find this mechanism highly important and consider it one of the most valuable ones from the point of view of developing regional consensus and common understanding of the path forward concerning the situation in Afghanistan and related matters.
The Moscow format’s main and indisputable advantage is that it unites Afghanistan with all neighbouring countries and other influential states of the region without exception. We regret the fact that our US colleagues are not participating in this meeting. We noted the fact that this is the second time in a row that the Americans have avoided an expanded troika meeting (Russia-United States-China-Pakistan). I hope this does not involve any fundamental problems. One of the reasons they gave us for their non-attendance was the recent appointment of a new US Special Representative for Afghanistan. I hope that the United States remains ready to work energetically on the Afghanistan-related agenda, and the new Special Representative will join in further steps, including ones that will follow in the wake of this Moscow-format meeting in the context of implementing the agreements that you will reach today.
As you may be aware, the Moscow format dates back to 2017. The delegations of the Taliban and the republican camp met for the first time at the Moscow format negotiating table in the presence of representatives of 10 countries in November 2018.
Now that the situation on the ground has turned around, it is pointless to look for someone to blame for the failure to achieve tangible results regarding national reconciliation. Notably, hopes pinned on the republican camp and the former government led by former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani failed.
A new administration is in office now. This hard fact places great responsibility on the Taliban. We note the efforts they are making to stabilise the military-political situation and to ensure the smooth operation of the public governance system.
Sustainable peace in Afghanistan remains a pressing goal. We believe that forming an inclusive government, which fully reflects the interests of all ethnic and political forces in the country, is the key to achieving it. This kind of “perspicacity” would be a good lesson for those who sacrificed national interests for the sake of their personal ambitions and literally left their people to the mercy of fate. This would also predetermine the trajectory of progressive development of Afghanistan, relying on the broadest possible groups of the population. Popular support is, of course, also dependent on competent social policy and observance of fundamental rights and freedoms. I had an in-depth discussion about this with the Taliban delegation before the meeting.
On the one hand, the new balance of power in Afghanistan which took root after August 15 has no alternative in the foreseeable future. On the other hand, the lack of official recognition in the international arena, problems in the socioeconomic and financial spheres and the humanitarian challenges faced by the new Kabul government indicate that the current state of affairs cannot yet be referred to as stable.
Numerous terrorist groups, primarily ISIS and Al-Qaeda, are trying to take advantage of this state of affairs, and are again rearing their heads and making brazen bloody raids in different parts of the country. Unfortunately, the problem of drug production in Afghanistan remains acute. There is a real threat of the terrorist and drug activity, including on behalf of those who masquerade as members of migration flows, leaking into neighbouring countries. In this context and for obvious reasons we are particularly concerned about Central Asia.
In order to counter the above threats to Afghanistan and to the contiguous region’s security, as well as threats that are projected onto other regions around the world there is a need for a timely and proportionate response both within the country and on the part of its international partners. We call on the Taliban (this was also discussed with the delegation) to do their utmost to prevent anyone from using the territory of Afghanistan against the interests of third countries, primarily, against Afghanistan's immediate neighbours - the countries of Central Asia – which are our friends and allies. We plan to engage our capabilities, including the capabilities offered by the UN, the SCO, the CSTO and other multilateral entities. The CSTO and the SCO summit meetings held in Dushanbe last month, as well as a special joint meeting of these associations at the highest level, which was dedicated to the situation in Afghanistan, showed overlapping approaches of both organisations to overcoming the challenges at hand. Importantly, both the SCO and the CSTO have a special mechanism that was created many years ago, which is dedicated to interacting with Afghanistan and identifying ways to promote stabilisation in that country.
We are content with the level of practical cooperation with the Afghan authorities. Today, it allows us to resolve the priority tasks of ensuring the security of Russian citizens living in Afghanistan and the failsafe operation of the Russian embassy, as well as other embassies for that matter, in Kabul. We are grateful to the Afghan authorities for their assistance to our journalists, which helps them to objectively cover internal political events, and for their aid in the repatriation of the Russians that happened to be in Afghanistan during the change of power.
We consider important the decision to enable Afghan students that were accepted for study in Russian universities to continue their education in person. We plan to bring them to Russia in the near future. We will continue building business relations with Kabul with a view to resolving urgent bilateral issues.
The development of national education, public healthcare and other socially important areas, especially with very limited funds, certainly requires vigorous efforts and sometimes unconventional solutions on behalf of the new bodies of power, which are now in a state of being formed. Reports on the deteriorating living conditions of average Afghans are a source of serious concern. Analysts believe the humanitarian situation may worsen further due to the inability of a considerable part of the Afghan population to make a living. We hope representatives of the Afghan delegation will share with us today first-hand information about the current humanitarian situation.
We believe that it is time to mobilise the resources of the international community for efficient financial, economic and humanitarian aid, in part, with a view to preventing a humanitarian crisis and stopping migrant flows. The G20 Extraordinary Meeting on October 12 of this year illustrated the same or similar positions of the regional and external players on this issue. We expect a responsible attitude towards the Afghan people from the Western countries whose 20 year-long stay in the country has led to the current grave situation without contributing anything to the industrial and economic development of Afghanistan. The West is expected to provide not just traditional humanitarian assistance but also urgent help to ensure the payment of salaries to such socially important professions in Afghanistan as teachers and doctors.
We are convinced that the United Nations should pay a central coordinating role in pooling international efforts on the Afghan track. A collective appeal by those at the Moscow format meeting to the leaders and all members of the UN was published following today’s meeting. I hope it will be heard and we will receive a positive response to it in the near future.
We plan to send another consignment of humanitarian aid to the friendly Afghan people in the next few days.
Thank you for your attention. I wish you productive work.