Moscow Format urges Afghan govt to dismantle terror networks

 

ISLAMABAD:

The key regional countries in their meeting in Russia have urged the interim Afghan government to take effective measures to “dismantle, eliminate, and prevent placement of all sorts of terrorist groups” based in Afghanistan.

The joint call for effective action against all terrorist groups was part of the declaration issued after the latest meeting of the Moscow Format held in the Russian city of Kazan on Friday.

However, a statement issued by the Russian foreign ministry explicitly said, “Any return of US and NATO military structures to the territory of Afghanistan or its neighbouring states under any pretext was unacceptable.”

The fifth meeting of the Moscow Format Consultations on Afghanistan was attended by special representatives and senior officials from 13 countries, including Pakistan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

 

The meeting was also attended by acting Afghanistan minister for foreign affairs. Representatives of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Türkiye were in attendance as guests of honour. The forum was set up in 2017 to evolve a regional consensus on the way forward for Afghanistan.

The last meeting was held in November 2022 where the interim Afghan government was asked to take steps towards establishing an inclusive government.
This year the interim Afghan foreign minister was invited to the meeting. Pakistan was represented by its special envoy on Afghanistan Ambassador Asif Durrani.

The joint declaration issued after the meeting said the parties noted with concern the difficult security situation in Afghanistan due to the intensification of the activities of terrorist groups, primarily the Islamic State. However, they appreciated the current Afghan authorities for their serious fight against the IS, urging them to do the same against all terrorist groups.

At the same time, they called on the incumbent Afghan authorities to take effective measures to dismantle, eliminate, and prevent placement of all sorts of terrorist groups based in Afghanistan and to prevent the country from being the terrorism and instability hotspot and spreading to the regional states. While the Afghan Taliban may have taken action against Da’esh, groups such as the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) gained strength in Afghanistan.
Pakistan has been expressing concerns over the lack of action against the TTP.

Sources said the joint call for taking effective action against all groups was made at the request of Pakistan. The joint declaration called on the incumbent Afghan authorities to step up cooperation with the regional countries in the fight against the threats of terrorism and drug-trafficking emanating from the Afghan territory.

 

Most participants stressed their opposition to the support for terrorism in Afghanistan by external forces. They noted the reports on the reduction in poppy cultivation in Afghanistan caused by successful steps taken by the Afghan authorities. They stressed the importance of continuing real and its effective anti-drug policy, including against industrial drug production, which indicate a serious and dangerous increase.

However, they regretted that there had been no progress in forming a truly inclusive government in Afghanistan, reflecting the interests of all ethno-political groups of the country.

“Despite the appointment of some individual representatives of various Afghan ethnicities to the Kabul administration, the parties observed no political pluralism in it. Once again urged the current Afghan authorities to establish a practical, outcome-oriented dialogue with the representatives of alternative ethno-political groups with a view to completing the process of peaceful settlement and forging a balanced, more broad-based, inclusive, accountable and responsible government in Afghanistan.”

 

They urged the Afghan authorities to provide the necessary conditions to improve the welfare of the Afghan people, prevent their further migration and provide conditions for the return of the refugees.

The participants spoke out for respect of fundamental rights and freedoms in Afghanistan, including equal rights to work, education and justice, without distinction as to gender, ethnicity or religion. They stressed upon their concern about imposed restrictions on women’s employment and girls’ education, urging to promote the modern education in the schools conforming to international standards.

Most of the participants of the Moscow Format noted the UN secretary general’s efforts to coordinate actions between international and regional partners on the Afghan track during the meeting of Special Representatives in Doha in May 2023.

They observed that cooperation with non-regional players is possible if the US-led Western coalition, whose 20-year actions led to the current crisis in Afghanistan, recognises and shoulders its responsibility for post-conflict reconstruction of the country, and unfreeze the Afghan national assets and lift unilateral sanctions, immediately.

The parties advocated for Afghanistan as an independent, united, and peaceful state.

They underscored the unacceptability of deployment of military infrastructure facilities of third countries in Afghanistan and its neighbouring states under any pretext. While appreciating the prospects for the development of regional economic projects with participation of Afghanistan, they emphasised the need to strengthen bilateral and multilateral economic ties.

The parties reaffirmed the opposition to attempts at politicising humanitarian assistance, highlighting the importance of continuing humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.

They expressed their interest for expanding engagement with the current Afghan authorities in the areas of culture, sport, and education.
The parties noted the proposal of Iran to strengthen regional cooperation on Afghanistan by establishing a regional contact group to discuss the issues of common interests.

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