Russia urges calm between ally Tajikistan, Afghanistan

·2 min read

MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russia urged Tajikistan and Afghanistan to resolve any dispute in a mutually acceptable manner, saying it had heard reports they were sending troops to their common border, TASS quoted the foreign ministry in Moscow as saying on Thursday.

Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon has refused to recognise the Taliban-appointed cabinet in Kabul and has lashed out at what he describes as violations of human rights in the Taliban's siege of the Panjshir province where opposition forces held rallies.

The Taliban, in turn, has warned Dushanbe against meddling in Afghanistan's domestic affairs. Ethnic Tajiks make up more than a quarter of Afghanistan's population, but Taliban members predominantly belong to the biggest ethnic group, Pashtuns.

"We observe with concern the growing tensions in Tajik-Afghan relations amid mutually strong statements by the leadership of the two countries," TASS quoted ministry spokesman Alexei Zaitsev as saying.

According to the Taliban's own information, tens of thousands of Afghan special forces fighters have been deployed in the Takhar province of northeastern Afghanistan, adjacent to Tajikistan, Zaitsev said.

Russian RIA news news agency cited Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi as denying the movement was building up its forces at the Tajik border.

Tajikistan's foreign ministry was not immediately available for comment on the reports.

Tajikistan, which hosts a Russian military base, held military parades in two provinces bordering Afghanistan on Wednesday and Thursday.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin expressed concern on Wednesday for U.S.-trained Afghan pilots and other personnel being held in Tajikistan after they fled across the border from Afghanistan last month as the Taliban took power.

In the war's final moments, the U.S.-backed Afghan Air Force personnel flew dozens of military aircraft across the Afghan border to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and were detained there.

(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Additional reporting by Nazarali Pirnazarov in Dushanbe; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Nick Macfie, Alex Richardson and Gareth Jones)

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