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US Criticizes Taliban for Not Attending UN Meeting, Russia Praises Them

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN – The US Department of State says that the Taliban is not the only group of Afghans who have a stake in the future of Afghanistan, emphasizing support for all citizens, including women and girls, in shaping their country’s future.

During a press briefing on Tuesday, February 20, the department’s spokesman, Matthew Miller, said he was not surprised by the Taliban’s decision to decline the invitation from the UN to participate in the meeting of special envoys on Afghanistan in Doha, Qatar.

“I can’t say I’m incredibly surprised that the Taliban declined the invitation to participate in a meeting with a broad representation from the international community,” Miller said. “However, as we’ve stated before, the Taliban are not the only Afghans who have a stake in Afghanistan’s future. We will continue to support all Afghans, including women and girls, in having a voice in shaping their future,” he added.

The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, chaired the second meeting of special envoys on Afghanistan on February 18 and 19, discussed the country’s situation and the appointment of a special envoy as recommended by the independent assessment of Afghanistan conducted by the UN Special Coordinator for Afghanistan, Feridun Sinirlioğlu, and endorsed by the UN Security Council last year.

While the UN attempted to convince the Taliban to participate in the meeting, the unrecognized regime, however, set conditions for their participation. According to the UN chief, the Taliban’s conditions included refusing him to engage with representatives of Afghan civil society and demanding to be treated as legitimate government of Afghanistan.

Concluding the conference, the UN Secretary-General described the meeting as “extremely useful” and emphasized that the Taliban’s absence had not impacted its effectiveness. However, he reiterated the importance of continuing with the same format for future meetings, expressing hope that the Taliban would participate in the next one.

A day after the UN-sponsored meeting on Afghanistan, Taliban Deputy Prime Minister Mawlawi Abdul Kabir criticized the meeting’s organizers for neglecting their conditions, expressing their willingness to ensure a “positive and meaningful” participation in future UN meetings.

Meanwhile, Russia, the country that abstained from a Security Council vote on a resolution authorizing the Secretary-General to appoint a special envoy for Afghanistan, defended the Taliban decision as “rational” while describing the meeting as a “failure.”

During a press conference on Tuesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, “The delegation of the Afghan government refused to participate due to the humiliating conditions associated with the fact that it was allowed only to minor events involving fugitive emissaries of the so-called Afghan civil society.”

“Any initiative, be it the establishment of a new post or format, is doomed to failure without the support of Kabul and regional states,” Zakharova added.

In addition to the Taliban’s refusal to participate in the meeting, another notable development was the refusal of Russian, China, and Iranian delegations to engage with Afghan civil society representatives, a move welcomed by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

When asked about the refusal of Russian, Chinese, and Iranian envoys to meet with representatives of Afghan civil society, Mr. Miller responded that the US tries to take actions through its diplomacy to empower civil society, and it will encourage every country to pursue that path.