Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has sought to counter U.S. allegations that Moscow is supplying arms to the Taliban in Afghanistan, claiming on April 25 that the charges are unsubstantiated and "false."
The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, said during a press conference with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in Kabul on April 24 that he wouldn’t dispute that Russia’s involvement in the Afghan war includes providing weapons to the Taliban.
Nicholson did not go into specifics, but a senior U.S. military official said that Russia was giving machine guns and other medium-weight weaponry to Taliban militants.
The military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Russian supplies were intended for use in the southern provinces of Helmand, Kandahar, and Uruzgan.
"These are unprofessional declarations that are based on nothing," Lavrov said at a press conference in Moscow on April 25, responding to a question about the U.S. statements.
He said that the United States had not provided "a single fact confirming these negative declarations" and asserted that U.S. intelligence officials "know perfectly well that these are false claims."
Lavrov said Russia's stance is that the Taliban should take part in peace negotiations in Afghanistan.
"We are in favor of only one simple thing: We want the Taliban to join the national dialogue on the basis of the criteria endorsed by the UN Security Council at the Afghan government's request," he said.
But for this to happen, the Taliban must "stop violence, break with terrorism, and respect the constitution," he said.
Lavrov added that there is not much hope for reconciliation in Afghanistan without dialogue between the government and the Taliban.
Taliban militants hold large amounts of territory more than 15 years after being driven from power following a U.S.-led invasion conducted in response to the September 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States.
The United States targeted Afghanistan because the Taliban, which had taken over most of he country in previous years and imposed extemist rule, was harboring Al-Qaeda leaders who were behind the September 11 attacks.
With reporting by Reuters, dpa, Interfax, and TASS