France’s Macron hosts Tajik leader for talks on Afghanistan
French President Emmanuel Macron hosted Tajikistan’s leader for rare talks on Wednesday, vowing to help the Central Asian state as it deals with the aftermath of the Taliban takeover of neighbouring Afghanistan.
The invitation to the Elysee Palace — a rare honour for strongman President Emomali Rakhmon, in power since 1992 — is a sign of the important role France believes regional countries can play in the Afghan crisis.
“We will talk with the president about the help that France can give Tajikistan to stabilise the situation (in Afghanistan),” Macron said alongside Rakhmon.
Tajikistan shares a long border with Afghanistan, which is under the control of the Taliban after the Islamists seized control of Kabul from a pro-Western government in mid-August.
Dushanbe has made clear its distaste for the Taliban, which is under global scrutiny, particularly over its treatment of women.
Rakhmon for years has based his regional reputation on acting as a bulwark against radical Islam, cracking down on Islamist movements at home in a way that has caused concern among activists.
“We welcome your role, commitment and demand that changes in the region are factors of maximum stability,” Macron told Rakhmon.
He said there should be “no compromise with terrorist groups, nor with the values that we defend, in particular the dignity of women”.
Rakhmon returned the compliment by saying that Tajikistan saw France as a “reliable partner” in Europe.
While other neighbouring countries, including Uzbekistan, developed ties with the Taliban long ago, Tajik officials have refused to engage with the group.
Rakhmon has complained of the build-up of “terrorist groups” on Tajikistan’s southern border and bestowed a posthumous honour on Afghan anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Massoud.