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MOSCOW (AP) — Russia is set to host the Taliban and other Afghan factions for talks later this month, a senior Russian diplomat said Thursday, in a move that reflects Moscow's efforts to expand its clout.
Zamir Kabulov, the Kremlin envoy on Afghanistan, said there will be a meeting of the so-called “Moscow format” talks involving the Taliban and various other Afghan parties in Moscow on Oct. 20. He didn't say who would represent the Taliban.
In remarks carried by Russian news agencies, Kabulov also said that diplomats from Russia, the United States, China and Pakistan will hold talks on Afghanistan this month.
Russia had worked for years to establish contacts with the Taliban, even though it still officially considers it a terrorist organization.
Unlike many other countries, Russia hasn't evacuated its embassy in Kabul and its ambassador quickly met with the Taliban after they took over the capital.
The Taliban was added to the Russian list of terrorist organizations in 2003, and Moscow has not yet moved to remove the group from the list. Any contact with such groups is punishable under Russian law, but the Foreign Ministry has responded to questions about the seeming contradiction by saying that its exchanges with the Taliban are essential for international efforts to help stabilize Afghanistan.
The Soviet Union fought a 10-year war in Afghanistan that ended with its troops withdrawing in 1989. Since then, Moscow has made a diplomatic comeback as an influential power broker in international talks on Afghanistan, hosting the Taliban representatives and members of other factions for a series of bilateral and multilateral meetings.