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NATO to press Moscow on reported support for Taliban

AFP , Wednesday 25 Oct 2017

NATO wants to talk to Russia about reports that Russian fuel is reaching the Taliban, an alliance official said Wednesday.

NATO ambassadors are to meet Thursday in Brussels with Russian's envoy to the alliance, Alexander Grushko, and Afghanistan is on the agenda, Petr Pavel, chairman of the NATO Military Committee, told journalists in Washington.

Asked about reports that Moscow is supplying arms to the Taliban, which US-led coalition forces are fighting, Pavel said he had not seen any hard evidence of this.

However, he said he has seen reports that Russia is providing fuel to companies which in turn sell such fuel to the Taliban.

Afghanistan will be on the order of business Thursday because it is in the interest of both NATO and Russia to fight terrorism, Pavel said.

Russia is eager to stem the spread of jihadist fighters in Afghanistan, fearing the destabilization of former Soviet republics in Central Asia, which Moscow sees as falling within its sphere of influence.

The head of US military forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, accused Russia in February of giving "influence and legitimacy" to the Taliban and thus thwarting NATO's drive to bring peace to the country.

A month later General Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of NATO forces in Europe, told the US Congress that Moscow might be providing supplies to the Taliban. He did not say if he meant weapons or other kinds of equipment.

Pavel also said NATO is trying to arrange by the end of the year a meeting between Scaparrotti and General Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces.

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