Russia: Taliban could be removed from terror blacklist

ISLAMABAD — Russia said Tuesday that it is engaged in an “active dialogue” with Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban and is working toward removing them from Moscow’s list of terrorist organizations. 

“The fact is that this is our neighboring country. In one form or another, we maintain communication with them,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, according to Russian news agency TASS. 

“We have to resolve pressing issues, which also requires dialogue. In fact, we are in contact with them just like everyone else,” Peskov stated. “They are actually the ones who are in power in Afghanistan.” 

He did not elaborate, but his statement came just days after gunmen stormed a concert hall outside the Russian capital and killed at least 144 people, making it the deadliest terrorist attack in the country in two decades. 

Islamic State militants claimed responsibility for the bloodshed, with U.S. intelligence officials saying the terror group’s Afghan branch, IS-Khorasan, was behind it. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin quickly tied the attack to Ukraine — claims the neighboring country and the United States strongly rejected.  

“You have said yourself that the option is under consideration. Let’s wait until this process ends,” Peskov said when asked for his response to a Russian Foreign Ministry statement on Monday about possibly removing the Taliban from the terrorist blacklist.

The Taliban condemned the Moscow attack as “a blatant violation of all human standards” and urged regional countries to take “a coordinated, clear and resolute position” against such incidents. 

“Daesh, which has targeted civilians in Afghanistan and other regions of the world as well, again clearly demonstrated through this incident that it is a group in the hands of intelligence agencies aimed at defaming Islam and posing a threat to the entire region,” stated the Taliban Foreign Ministry, using a local acronym for IS-Khorasan. 

The Taliban reclaimed power in 2021 after the U.S.-led foreign troops withdrew from Afghanistan, but they remain on a list of organizations Russia designates as terrorists.  

No foreign country has formally recognized the government in Kabul, citing a lack of political inclusiveness and sweeping restrictions on Afghan women’s access to education and work. 

Zamir Kabulov, the Russian special presidential envoy for Afghanistan, told TASS earlier this week that Moscow had invited a Taliban delegation to take part in an international economic forum, called “Russia – Islamic World: KazanForum,” in the city of Kazan from May 14 to 19. 

Russia is among several regional and neighboring countries that have retained their diplomatic presence in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover. The U.S. and Western countries at large have since moved their Afghan diplomatic missions to Qatar. 

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