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‘Time to move from talk to action’: Senior Russian envoy encourages EU to speed up reopening of diplomatic mission in Afghanistan

By Jonny Tickle

Reports that the European Union is mulling the possible return of its diplomatic staff to Afghanistan in the near future are very welcome, but simply talking about it isn’t enough, a senior Russian diplomat said on Monday.

Speaking at an online conference, the Russian president’s special envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov called for the bloc to return to Kabul. The EU mission’s staff fled in August when the Taliban took hold of the country, along with the envoys of most of the countries of the world. Only the Russian, Chinese, Pakistani, Kazakh and Uzbek embassies did not evacuate, Kabulov explained.

The Taliban is registered in Russia as a terrorist organization.

“I have heard about it. Wonderful,” Kabulov said, when asked about reports of Brussels’ decision to return to Afghanistan. “It’s time to move from talk to action. By and large, [the Russian mission] assumed that there was no need to leave anyway.”

The senior diplomat, who runs the Foreign Ministry’s Second Asian Department, also noted that representatives from the EU are due to come to Moscow next month, where they will meet Kabulov to discuss Afghanistan.

On Monday, Britain’s Financial Times reported, citing a source, that the EU intends to reopen its diplomatic representation in Afghanistan “within a month.” This was later confirmed by EU spokeswoman Nabila Massrali. The current group of representatives from Brussels is currently based in Qatar, which is playing host to both Western diplomats and Taliban representatives. The EU has already sent an exploratory mission to Afghanistan, the newspaper reported. The Taliban has assured the bloc that its buildings would be safe and protected by the terrorist group.

By keeping the Russian operation going in Kabul, Moscow has taken a significantly different approach to Afghanistan when compared to most of the world. Russian President Vladimir Putin has regularly spoken about dealing with “reality” on the ground, and subsequently, the Kremlin has established routine communication with Taliban leadership.

Last week, during a meeting with representatives of the group in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called on the new de facto government of Afghanistan to stabilize the country and form a cabinet that fully reflects the population’s interests.

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