The Moscow Format Consultations: Understanding Afghanistan and its Neighbours’ Outreach

The Moscow Format Consultations:  Understanding Afghanistan and its Neighbours’ Outreach



Wednesday, October 20, the Russian capital hosted the Moscow Format Consultations on Afghanistan, with the presence of a delegation on behalf the Taleban movement and representatives of China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The Moscow Format has been established in 2017 as an international mechanism for Afghanistan, initially formed by six parties involving Russia, Afghanistan, India, Iran, China and Pakistan. It was subsequently expanded at the consultations held in Moscow in 2017 and 2018.

According to the Joint Statement released by the participating parties, “further practical engagement with Afghanistan needed [sic] to take into account the new reality, that is the Taliban coming to power in the country, irrespective of the official recognition of the new Afghan government by the international community.” Consequently, the participating countries called on the Afghan leadership “to take further steps to improve governance and to form a truly inclusive government that adequately reflects the interests of all major ethno-political forces in the country” as well as “to practice moderate and sound internal and external policies, adopt friendly policies towards neighbors of Afghanistan, achieve the shared goals of durable peace, security, safety, and long-term prosperity, and respect the rights of ethnic groups, women and children.”

Clearly, the Joint Statement represents the expression of the sides’ willingness to “promote security in Afghanistan to contribute to regional stability.” Equally, it represents the first opportunity for the Taleban movement to participate at major multilateral consultations in the aftermath of assuming power after conquering Kabul.

During the multilateral talks, the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, declared that Kremlin recognizes the “efforts” initiated by the Talebans aiming at the stabilisation of the situation in Afghanistan, situation which has deteriorated since the announcement of the Islamic Emirate, on August 15. "There is a new administration in power," the Russian Foreign Minister commented, adding that: "We note their efforts to stabilize the military and political situation and start the work of the state’s administration." At the same time, the Russian high-dignitary urged the Talebans to create an administrative apparatus that reflects the interests of “all the ethnic groups and political forces present in the country”.

Certainly, the Moscow Format meetings represent one of the most significant international events for the Taleban movement, interested in gaining international recognition since assuming the control of Afghanistan by military force. One may assume that Moscow’s initiative of hosting the meeting reflects Kremlin’s efforts of playing a key role in Central Asia’s security, provided that five members of the Commonwealth of Independent States are neighbouring the currently fragile and conflict-prone Afghanistan.

The Russian Foreign Minister’s manifestation of “regret” for the absence of the United States, which announced their impossibility to reach Moscow for “logistic reasons”, despite stressing their intention to participate at similar discussions in the future, might be considered significant in showcasing Kremlin’s willingness to assume a more prominent role in tackling the Afghan crisis and its future role in the regional architecture. In fact, according to the head of the Taleban delegation, Abdul Salam Hanafi, also a leader of the Afghan delegation at the meetings with the European Union and the United States, the Moscow Format is “very important for the stability of the entire region”.

The Moscow Format meeting came one day after China, Pakistan and Russia have announced their availability to provide an unspecified amount of humanitarian aid for Afghanistan, given the country’s unprecedented social and humanitarian crisis. In their Joint Statement, the participating countries also expressed their “confidence in the need for the international community to mobilize consolidated efforts to provide urgent humanitarian and economic assistance to the Afghan people in the post-conflict reconstruction of the country”, however adding“the core burden of post-conflict economic and financial reconstruction and development of Afghanistan must be shouldered by troop-based actors which were in the country for the past 20 years.”

The European Union has pledged €1 billion to avert a further deepening of the crisis in the region.

On the other hand, Moscow has clarified, through its Foreign Minister, its position of not being ready to recognise the Taleban movement as a government: “The official recognition of the Taleban is not under discussion at the time. (…) As most countries in the region, we are in contact with the new executive to urge them to keep the promises they have made when they came to power.”

The Indian delegation led by JP Singh, the joint secretary of the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran division of the Ministry of External Affairs, also met the Taleban delegation in the sidelines of the meeting. According to media, India “expressed readiness to provide extensive humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan” and “emphasised the need to take into account each other’s concerns and improve diplomatic and economic relations”.

No other statements on behalf of the participating parties have been identified so far. Certainly, all the participating sides having a key-role on Afghan affairs are of significant and equal importance in guarding the regional security and the stabilization of Afghanistan. One may expect that the fruitful results of the dialogue will bear positive outcomes in the near future.

While the recent Moscow Format has not provided a major breakthrough in the Afghan crisis, one may infer that the real objective of the consultations has been clarifying the parties’ position with regard to matters of common interest and trying to find common ground. Clearly, ramping up the efforts for a peaceful, stable and secure Afghanistan is a clear sign of goodwill on behalf of the all the actors involved. How the regional and global goodwill toward Afghanistan would bear results at domestic level, however, depends on Afghanistan’s commitment toward national reconciliation, human rights, anti-terrorism and anti-drug trafficking approach.



The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the official policy, position or view of IRSEA.