Senior Taliban official says the South Asian country is diversifying its trade partners and Moscow has offered discount on energy and grain prices.

Taliban says deal would run for an unspecified trial period, after which both sides are expected to sign a longer-term deal if they are content with the arrangement.
Taliban says deal would run for an unspecified trial period, after which both sides are expected to sign a longer-term deal if they are content with the arrangement. (Reuters Archive)

Taliban has signed a provisional deal with Russia that will see Moscow supplying gasoline, diesel, gas and wheat to Afghanistan, Acting Afghan Commerce and Industry Minister Haji Nooruddin Azizi has told the Reuters news agency.

Azizi said on Tuesday his ministry was working to diversify its trading partners and that Russia has offered the Taliban administration a discount on average global commodity prices.

Azizi said the deal would involve Russia supplying around one million tonnes of gasoline, one million tonnes of diesel, 500,000 tonnes of liquefied petroleum gas and two million tonnes of wheat annually.

Azizi said the agreement would run for an unspecified trial period, after which both sides were expected to sign a longer-term deal if they were content with the arrangement.

The deal was finalised after an Afghan technical team spent several weeks in discussions in Moscow, having stayed on after Azizi visited there last month.

The move, the first known major international economic deal struck by the Taliban since it returned to power more than a year ago, could help to ease its isolation that has effectively cut it off from the global banking system.

No country formally recognises the Taliban, which fought a 20-year insurgency against Western forces and their local Afghan allies before sweeping into Kabul as US troops withdrew.

Russia does not officially recognise the Taliban’s government, but Moscow hosted leaders of the movement in the run-up to the fall of Kabul and its embassy is one of only a handful to remain open in the Afghan capital.

READ MORE: Russia hints it may recognise Taliban govt in Afghanistan

Afghans ‘in great need’

Since the Taliban regained power, Afghanistan has been plunged into economic crisis after development aid upon which the country relied was cut and amid sanctions that have largely frozen the banking sector.

The trade deal is likely to be watched closely in the United States, whose officials have held regular talks with the Taliban on plans for the country’s banking system.

Washington has announced the creation of a Swiss trust fund for some of the Afghan central bank reserves held in the United States.

The Taliban has demanded the release of the entire amount of around $7 billion and said the funds should be used for central bank operations.

Azizi said international data showed most Afghans were living below the poverty line, and his office was working to support trade and the economy through international outreach.

“Afghans are in great need,” he said.

“Whatever we do, we do it based on national interest and the people’s benefit.”

He said Afghanistan also received some gas and oil from Iran and Turkmenistan and had strong trade ties with Pakistan, but also wanted to diversify.

“A country ... shouldn’t be dependent on just one country, we should have alternative ways,” he said.

READ MORE: Deepening poverty leaves millions of Afghans at risk of famine: UN

Source: Reuters