Russia has approved a provisional agreement with the Taliban government to supply oil products, gas and wheat to war-torn Afghanistan, both sides said Wednesday.
The Russian Sputnik news agency quoted Zamir Kabulov, the special presidential envoy for Afghanistan, as confirming the deal hours after Taliban authorities reported details of the document.
“Yes, [the deal is tentatively approved],” Kabulov told the state-owned media outlet in Moscow but shared no details.
A spokesman for the Taliban-led Afghan ministry of commerce and industry, Akhundzada Abdul Salam, said its top officials had traveled to the Russian capital last month, where they negotiated and signed the import agreement. Kabul “hopes and is waiting for Russia to implement it soon,” Salam told VOA.
Minister of Commerce and Industry Nooruddin Azizi, who led the negotiations, said the pact would allow Kabul to annually buy 1 million metric tons of gasoline, 1 million tons of diesel, 500,000 tons of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and 2 million tons of wheat from Russia.
Azizi said Moscow had offered the Taliban a discount to average global commodity prices that would be delivered to Afghanistan by road and rail. He did not elaborate on the pricing or payment methods.
The Afghan minister, during his Moscow visit, had said his “priority is to import these Russian goods on a barter basis.” Aziz said at the time, though, that Afghanistan could pay to buy the oil and grain from Russia “if the barter plan does not work.”
No foreign government has yet granted legitimacy to the Taliban, who waged a 20-year insurgency against the United States and NATO troops defending Afghan government security forces. The insurgents eventually seized power from the U.S.-backed Kabul administration in August 2021 as foreign troops withdrew from the country.
The Taliban’s curbs on women’s rights to work, education and political participation, however, are among key concerns preventing the international community from recognizing their government.
The Taliban takeover has pushed the war-shattered Afghan economy to the brink of collapse as Western donors halted development assistance to the largely foreign aid-dependent South Asian nation and isolated its banking sector. The sanctions have worsened an already bad humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
Washington and European countries also have blocked the Taliban from accessing Afghan central bank reserves worth about $9 billion, mostly held in the U.S. The Islamist group has been demanding the release of all the frozen funds back to Afghanistan.
U.S. officials have been holding talks with the Taliban on finding ways to prevent the collapse of the country’s economy and to facilitate delivery of much-needed humanitarian aid to millions of Afghans facing acute hunger.
Earlier this month, Washington announced the creation of a Swiss-based trust fund for the disbursement of $3.5 billion out of the $7 billion held in the U.S without involving the Taliban. The group has denounced the move as “illegal and unacceptable.”
In July, the Taliban also sealed a deal with neighboring Iran to purchase 350,000 metric tons of oil, and they have boosted trade ties with Pakistan, which shares the longest border with Afghanistan.
Pakistani traders have increased coal imports from Afghanistan and Central Asian countries through Afghan territory, enabling the Taliban to generate much-needed revenue to govern the country.