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Sanctions against Taliban could be lifted as part of Afghan peace process, top Russian diplomat tells RT in wake of US withdrawal

Sanctions against Taliban could be lifted as part of Afghan peace process, top Russian diplomat tells RT in wake of US withdrawal
With Taliban fighters gaining ground in Afghanistan and US troops preparing a total withdrawal from the country, representatives of the militant group have called on Russia to support the lifting of sanctions against its leaders.

On Monday, one of the Islamist faction’s top political envoys said it had used a meeting with Russian counterparts to request support in having the restrictions quashed at the United Nations. The Taliban is currently subject to asset freezes, arms embargoes and a travel ban. However, while officially designated as a prohibited terrorist organization domestically in Russia, a group of its representatives received special dispensation to attend talks in Moscow last week.

Suheil Shahin, a former journalist now serving as a Taliban spokesman, said that he and his colleagues told their Russian counterparts that it was time for the measures, imposed by the UN in 1988, to be dropped. “We asked them to be removed from the sanctions list,” he said. Moscow has permanent representation on the UN Security Council, which would give it a say in the decision.

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While there has been no official acknowledgement of the request, Dmitry Polyanskiy, one of the country's top diplomats and Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, told RT on Wednesday that there is already a Security Council resolution that contains provisions for reviewing the sanctions, provided progress is made towards ending violence and instability in the country.

“Russia consistently supports the Afghan peace process,” he said. “We support the inter-Afghan negotiations, and all our efforts are aimed at facilitating the start of substantive talks between the two sides. For that reason, we supported the travel ban exemption... for Taliban representatives to let them participate in peace talks.”

Polyanskiy said that the issue of sanctions remains “very sensitive.” He acknowledged that there could be a review of the 1988 sanctions package, but that it should be “in strict and full compliance with Security Council Resolution 2513, which explicitly talks about the possibility of lifting [the measures] and the peace process.”

The provisions, passed last year, welcomed “the Taliban’s commitment to prevent any group or individual, including Al-Qaida, from using the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of other countries.” It also emphasized the importance of the group’s “commitment to participate in intra-Afghan negotiations with all sides to discuss and agree on a political settlement.”

In addition, the Security Council resolution opened the door to sanctions against the Taliban being dropped given the right circumstances and progress in peace talks. The body expressed “its readiness upon the commencement of the intra-Afghan negotiations to consider the start of the review of the status of designations of individuals, groups, undertakings and entities on the list.”

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