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US, Taliban Talks ‘Unproductive’ without Afghan Govt. - Lavrov

RIA Novosti

23:50 20/03/2012 MOSCOW, March 20 (RIA Novosti) - Attempts by the United States to engage in dialogue with the Taliban without the Afghan government are unproductive, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday.

“Reports are arriving on attempts to launch dialogue between the Americans and the Taliban in the territory of a third country without the participation of the Afghan government at this stage,” Lavrov said in an interview with the Kommersant FM radio.

“I believe this is an unproductive approach and it should be changed,” he said, adding that the Afghan government should be the key participant of national reconciliation talks.

Lavrov recalled that a UN Security Council resolution says that the Taliban could become a participant in the talks should the group abide by the Afghan Constitution, renounce violence, and separate from Al Qaeda.

Lavrov also said the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was not very effective in fighting the terrorist and drug threats in Afghanistan.

He said Moscow is interested in the ISAF “fulfilling its tasks more effectively,” adding that was why Russia provided transit opportunities.

Moscow is currently in talks with the United States on an unprecedented transport agreement, under which non-lethal cargo from Afghanistan could be flown to the airport in the city of Ulyanovsk in the Volga Federal District and then transferred to Europe by train.

Lavrov also voiced concerns over the United States’ plans to retain a military presence in Afghanistan, including in the form of military bases, after the planned withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country by the end of 2014.

“The establishment of several large military bases in Afghanistan without any deadlines or clearly stated goals raises questions,” he said.

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