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Lavrov: Russia has no plans to be mediator between Taliban, other Afghan forces

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Moscow has no intention to mediate negotiations between the Taliban and other political forces in Afghanistan.

Lavrov said on Thursday that Russia would no longer be a mediator in the intra-Afghan talks as it has already called on Afghan ethnic and political forces to discuss the formation of an inclusive government in the war-torn country.

"We have long urged the Taliban and other ethnic political groups in Afghanistan to negotiate the creation of an inclusive transitional government," he said, adding, "Currently we have no plans for being a mediator at such talks. To my mind, nobody has such plans, either."

The top Russian diplomat stressed that everybody was interested to see the Taliban and other ethnic and political actors in Afghanistan achieve unanimity regarding the messages they send to the Western countries, China and the Central Asian states.

Media reports said on Wednesday that the Taliban and other Afghan leaders have reached “consensus” on the formation of a new cabinet under the leadership of the group’s top spiritual leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada.

Pointing to resistance by militia fighters in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley, Lavrov said Russia’s allies in Tajikistan were negotiating with Taliban leaders in the mountainous area to reach a peace agreement.

"In the Panjshir Valley, the Afghan Tajiks are holding talks with the Taliban’s central government. I hope that these talks will eventually produce a negotiated solution, and not be disrupted, and that the threats of a resumption of hostilities will not materialize," he added.

The Taliban are poised to run Afghanistan again 20 years after they were removed from power by American invading forces. The Taliban militants intensified their offensives and rapidly overran major cities in recent weeks as the United States started what was seen as a hasty withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan. The Taliban took control of Afghanistan on August 15, prompting the evacuation of thousands of Afghan and foreign civilians via the Kabul airport, while foreign troops also used the airfield to pull out.

Panjshir Valley has been the only region to hold out against the Taliban following their takeover of Afghanistan.

Ahmad Masoud, the son of the late anti-Soviet resistance hero Ahmad Shah Masoud, has established himself in Panjshir, leading a several-thousand-strong force comprised of militias and remnants of the Afghan army and special forces units who are opposed to the Taliban.

Masoud has called for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban, but has said his forces will resist if the narrow and mountainous valley is attacked.

Taliban, Panjshir fighters claim heavy casualties in clashes

Also on Thursday, Taliban forces and Panjshir fighters engaged in fierce clashes in the valley, with each side saying it had inflicted heavy casualties on the other side over the recent days of combat.

"We started operations after negotiation with the local armed group failed," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said, adding that Taliban forces have entered Panjshir and taken control of some territory. "They suffered heavy losses."

However, a spokesman for the anti-Taliban National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRFA) said it had full control of all passes and entrances to the valley.

"The enemy made multiple attempts to enter Shotul from Jabul-Saraj, and failed each time," he said, referring to a town in neighboring Parwan province.

The spokesman said NRFA forces had also killed large numbers of Taliban militants on two fronts since clashes first broke out earlier in the week.

"It has been proven to the other side that they cannot resolve this issue through war," the spokesman said in reference to the Taliban's losses.

Both sides have provided varying figures for the other's casualties, without offering evidence.


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