Russia, China and India expressed concern Friday at the worsening humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and the spread of drug trafficking from the war-ravaged country.
The foreign ministers of the three regional powers at a virtual trilateral meeting reviewed, among other issues, the Afghan crisis. The collapse of the Western-backed government in Kabul and return to power of the Islamist Taliban in August have plunged Afghanistan into an unprecedented economic crisis.
“The ministers noted rising concerns regarding dramatic change of the situation in Afghanistan,” said a joint statement released following the meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, India's S Jaishankar and China's Wang Yi.
“Expressing concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, the ministers called for immediate and unhindered humanitarian assistance to be provided to Afghanistan,” the communique said.
It called on the Taliban to take action in accordance with the results of all the recently held international and regional formats of interaction on Afghanistan and respect the outcomes of the relevant United Nations resolutions.
The statement apparently referred to global calls for the ruling Islamist group to respect human rights, especially those of Afghan women and minorities, govern the country through an inclusive political system, and fight terrorism as well as narcotics.
“The ministers expressed their determination to counter the spread of illicit drug trafficking in opiates and methamphetamines from Afghanistan and beyond, which pose a serious threat to regional security and stability and provide funding for terrorist organizations,” it added.
Friday’s talks among Moscow, Beijing and New Delhi came on the eve of a new round of talks between the United States and the Taliban in Doha, the capital of Qatar.
U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West and Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi will lead their respective teams at two days of meetings starting Saturday.
A Taliban foreign ministry spokesman tweeted ahead of the talks that Muttaqi and his high-powered delegation would visit Doha on November 27-29. He said the discussions with U.S. interlocutors would cover “political issues, frozen assets, humanitarian aid, education, health, security and reopening of embassies in Kabul, other relevant issues.”
The international community has not recognized the Taliban, citing human rights and terrorism concerns.
Washington and European countries have halted non-humanitarian aid to Kabul and blocked the Islamist group’s access to billions of dollars in Afghan central bank assets, largely held in the U.S. Federal Reserve.
U.S. envoy West told VOA on Tuesday that it was not as simple for Washington as the Taliban might think to unfreeze the Afghan central bank assets.
“There are very complicated legal reasons, as well as judicial reasons, for why that money is not moving from particular banks into other places. I think it's important also to recognize that there are an additional $2 billion worth of foreign reserves located outside of the United States. That money, likewise, has not moved, for similar reasons,” West explained.
Critics and aid workers say the sanctions have plunged Afghanistan into economic upheavals and deteriorated the humanitarian crisis, stemming from years of war, high levels of poverty, rampant corruption and a prolonged drought.
The U.N. estimates nearly 23 million Afghans, or more than 60% of the country’s population, suffer from acute food shortages, and it says urgent humanitarian aid is needed to prevent a catastrophe in the country.