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Putin and Xi pledge to keep peace in Central Asia, after US withdrawal from Afghanistan sparks fears of drug trafficking & terror

Putin and Xi pledge to keep peace in Central Asia, after US withdrawal from Afghanistan sparks fears of drug trafficking & terror
Moscow and Beijing will work together to secure the region around Afghanistan, after Russian president Vladimir Putin and Chinese premier Xi Jinping reiterated their commitment to Central Asia in a telephone call on Wednesday.

In a statement published by the Kremlin shortly after the two leaders spoke, officials disclosed that "the problem of Afghanistan was discussed in detail." Both sides reportedly "expressed their readiness to step up efforts to combat the threats of terrorism and drug trafficking emanating from the territory."

According to the document, "The importance of establishing peace in this country as soon as possible and preventing the spread of instability to adjacent regions was emphasized." The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the so-called 'alliance of the East,' of which both Russia and China, as well as India and Pakistan, are members, was picked as the optimum format for co-ordinating security efforts.

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The conversation came one day after Taliban spokesman Muhammad Naeem told reporters that the Islamist group had close relations with the two countries. "China is our neighbor, and we have good relations with it. The same applies to Russia,"  he said.

Also on Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov hit out at EU officials who he claims are more concerned about Moscow and Beijing coming out as winners from the chaos in Afghanistan than about the consequences of the situation for ordinary Afghans. He pointed to Brussels’ foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, who warned this week that “what we cannot do is let the Chinese and Russians take control of the situation and be supporters of Kabul, and we become irrelevant.”

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Russia has opened up high-level contacts with the Taliban, including hosting a delegation for peace talks in Moscow, despite the group being designated as a terrorist organization and banned in the country. The country's embassy in Kabul has continued to operate despite countries like the US and UK shuttering their diplomatic missions and relocating staff to the fortified airport.

Earlier this month, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said that China was a welcome “friend” in its plans to rebuild the country, and called on Beijing to support economic development “as soon as possible.”

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