Afghan Trade and Industry Minister Haji Nooruddin Azizi has confirmed to Reuters that the Taliban have struck a tentative deal with Russia for the supply of petrol, diesel, gas and wheat. Under the deal, Moscow will supply Afghanistan with around one million tonnes of petrol, one million tonnes of diesel, 500,000 tonnes of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and two million tonnes of wheat per year.
The deal - which was signed after several weeks of negotiations in Moscow - will run for an unspecified trial period, although both sides are expected to make longer-term commitments at a later date. The Afghan minister did not elaborate on the price or methods of payment, only indicating that Russia offered the Taliban government a discount on the price of raw materials, which will be shipped by road and rail.
Taliban officials told Reuters in late August that they were close to reaching a trade agreement with Russia. Afghan Ministry of Economy spokesman Habiburahman Habib anticipated that the deal would focus on the supply of gas, oil and wheat. TOLO News also reported that Moscow and Kabul were discussing how to carry out the transfers due to the sanctions imposed on banks in both countries. According to Azizi, as reported by the Afghan media, the funds would be transferred through a third country.
Kabul is seeking to expand its trading partners, Azizi told the news agency. "We should not depend on one country, we should have alternatives," he said. The minister said Afghanistan has received gas and oil from Iran and Turkmenistan. Azizi also stressed the "strong trade ties" with Pakistan.
"Whatever we do, we do it in the national interest and for the benefit of the people," the Afghan trade official told Reuters. International agencies and institutions warn that most Afghans live on the poverty line. Therefore, according to Azizi, his ministry "works to support trade and the national economy through international outreach".
This agreement with Russia is the first major economic treaty signed by the Taliban since they took power in August 2021 following the withdrawal of US troops. Since then, no country has officially recognised the Afghan government. The international community has called on the new administration to respect the human rights of Afghan citizens, especially those of women and minorities such as the Hazaras.
Russia, despite not recognising the new government, is one of the few countries that maintains a diplomatic mission in Kabul. In fact, the Russian embassy in the Afghan capital recently suffered a suicide attack claimed by Daesh in which two Russian diplomats were killed.
#Kabul: A short video of today's explosion in front of the Russian embassy, Russian citizens, diplomats, and many other people were killed and injured in this explosion. #Afghanistan pic.twitter.com/Fju2IU9Gjr— Saeedullah Safi (@SaeedullahSafi7) September 5, 2022
In addition to keeping the embassy operational, Russian officials have held meetings with Afghan delegations. In October 2021, two months after the Taliban takeover of Kabul, Moscow organised a round of talks with Central Asian countries. During the meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged the Taliban to "form an inclusive government". He also congratulated them for "ensuring the functioning of state structures".
China is another country that has been keen to maintain ties with Afghanistan despite the Taliban government. Analysts have noted Beijing's interest in mineral resources on Afghan soil, particularly lithium. Indeed, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has been one of the few high-level foreign officials to visit the country since August 2021.