Russian FM Lavrov Calls India ‘Important Player’ in Afghan Peace

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in a meeting with his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishanka, said India is an important player in the political settlement in Afghanistan and that it should be engaged in international efforts supporting the Afghan peace efforts.

Quoted by the Hindustan Times in a report on Tuesday, Lavrov said that India should “undoubtedly” be part of international efforts to find a settlement to the situation in Afghanistan as it is an “important player” in such endeavors.

“The Taliban movement is part of the Afghan society and decision about Afghan settlement…is the integration of all ethnic and special religious groups in Afghanistan, otherwise it won’t be stable, so it should be bounded on the balance of the interests between political, ethnic and religious groups including their representation in the bodies of the authority, ” said the Russian foreign minister.

“For India what happens in Afghanistan impacts its security directly, I shared our approach that the durable peace there would require harmonizing interest of all both within and around that country, the peace process must be based on the foundational principles to which we all subscribe and a political solution should mean an independent, sovereign, united and democratic Afghanistan,” said Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishanka.

Meanwhile, Iranian and Afghan religious scholars held a meeting in the Iranian city of Mashhad, during which they called for a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan.

“The discussions focused on the aspiration of the Afghan people for peace, so both parties in the negotiations should value this aspiration,” said Ayatollah Hashemi, an Iranian scholar and Chancellor of Mashhad Islamic University.

Lavrov said that even though India was not a participant of the extended “Troika” summit on Afghanistan, which was hosted by Moscow on March 18, India is still part of the Moscow format uniting the neighboring states of Afghanistan, key regional countries and the USA.

“Such a composition allows coordinating the assistance to national reconciliation process based on broad regional consensus. As the Afghan peace process moves forward, we are planning to resume the work of this mechanism,” Lavrov said as quoted by Hindustan Times.

On March 24, Zamir Kabulov, the Russian president’s envoy for Afghanistan, said that the Taliban during the Moscow meeting insisted on the restoration of the Islamic emirate as part of the solution to the conflict. One of the key takeaways from the joint statement of the primary participants of the meeting, however, was that an Islamic emirate would not be supported.

Kabulov said that Russia is satisfied with the results of the Afghanistan peace conference that Moscow, and he urged the US to comply with agreements to withdraw its troops from the country by May 1.

This comes as senior political leaders and government officials are reviewing over 25 peace proposals, including that of the Presidential Palace, to make a unified peace road map for the upcoming conference in Turkey.

The committee that operates under the High Council for National Reconciliation is led by former vice president Mohammad Yunus Qanooni, and its members are politicians and senior government officials, including the national security adviser.

The peace proposals have been sent by political parties to the council. The 15-member committee is also reviewing views from 30 members of the council on the peace proposals.

The Turkey conference is expected to be held this month. Sources familiar with the matter have said that two dates – April 12 and 16 – are under discussion by involved parties for the meeting that some have said will continue for 10 days.

Biden Wants More Time, Advice on Afghanistan

White House press secretary Jen Psaki, referring to Afghanistan during a press conference on Monday, said that US President Joe Biden “wants to take the time to make the right decision” on Afghanistan.

“It will be tough to meet the May 1st deadline for full withdrawal, for logistical reasons,” Jen Psaki said.

“We are continuing — he’s continuing to consult internally with his national security team and advisers and, of course, also with our partners and allies,” she said.

A week ago, the US special envoy for Afghanistan’s reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad met with senior Taliban leaders including Mullah Baradar, the head of the Taliban’s political office in Doha, to discuss provisions of the US-Taliban peace agreement, which calls for the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, according to the Taliban’s spokesman Mohammad Naeem.

In the meantime, the United States reportedly asked the Taliban to agree to the continued presence of American forces for three or six months in Afghanistan after the May 1 deadline, sources close to the Taliban have said.