The Taliban held talks with European Union envoys in the Qatari capital of Doha on Tuesday. A day earlier, EU officials said that representatives from the United States would also take part.
Ahead of the meeting, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc was looking to bolster its direct aid to the Afghan people in an effort to stave off “collapse”.
“We cannot ‘wait and see’. We need to act, and act quickly,” Borrell said after discussions with EU development ministers.
“We want positive relationships with the whole world. We believe in balanced international relations. We believe such a balanced relationship can save Afghanistan from instability,” Taliban acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi said on Monday.
EU spokesperson Nabila Massrali said the talks “are an informal exchange at technical level. It does not constitute recognition of the ‘interim government.'” She added the two sides will discuss access to humanitarian aid and women’s rights, among other issues.
G20 holds emergency Afghanistan summit
Separately, the leaders of the G20 group of nations were also holding a virtual conference Tuesday addressing the deteriorating economic situation in the country.
As part of that summit, the EU promised €1 billion ($1.15 billion) in emergency aid to Afghanistan to prevent what European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday called “humanitarian and socio-economic collapse.”
Von der Leyen emphasized the need to work “fast,” saying, “we have been clear about our conditions for any engagement with the Afghan authorities, including on the respect of human rights. So far, the reports speak for themselves. But the Afghan people should not pay the price of the Taliban’s actions.”
US President Joe Biden joined the summit by video link, and the White House released a statement saying leaders “discussed the critical need to maintain a laser-focus on our enduring counterterrorism efforts, including against threats from ‘IS-K,'” the statement said, referring to the “Islamic State” in Afghanistan.
Later, the US State Department said the US has the capability to see that terror groups cannot use Afghanistan as a base to threaten the US.
Merkel warns against Afghanistan financial collapse
Following the virtual G20 meeting Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the international community cannot stand by and watch as “40 million people fall into chaos” because they lack electricity and a financial system.
“We all have nothing to gain if in Afghanistan the entire monetary system collapses or the financial system collapses, because humanitarian aid can then also no longer be provided,” Merkel said.
Merkel reemphasized that Germany has pledged $600 million in humanitarian aid for Afghanistan and said UN aid agencies must be given full access to provide aid.
However, the chancellor added that recognizing the Taliban officially as Afghanistan’s government is not on Germany’s agenda.
Merkel’s remarks come after a German delegation met with the Taliban in Doha on Monday for the first time.
The officials taking part in those talks included German special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Jasper Wieck, along with Markus Potzel, who serves as Germany’s ambassador-designate to Afghanistan.
Following the discussions, the German delegation said the Taliban government is a “reality.” The group took over Afghanistan on August 15 as the US and NATO allies withdrew forces from the country.
A statement from the German Foreign Office regarding the meeting said the delegation focused “on the safe passage for Germans and Afghan citizens for whom Germany has a special responsibility,” along with “respect for human and especially women’s rights,” as well as security-related issues.
The Taliban reportedly told the German delegation that the group is committed to protecting foreign diplomats and humanitarian aid organizations in Afghanistan.
UN calls for action
As the Taliban seek to bolster ties with the international community, the United Nations is warning Afghanistan it faces imminent economic collapse.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on the world to “take action and inject liquidity into the Afghan economy” as much of the country’s assets abroad have been frozen since the Taliban takeover.
Guterres added that injecting liquidity to prevent economic collapse is separate from recognition of the Taliban, lifting sanctions, unfreezing frozen assets or restoring international aid.
Women’s rights essential for Afghanistan
At the same time, he slammed the Taliban’s “broken promises” toward Afghanistan’s female population.
“I strongly appeal to the Taliban to keep their promises to women and girls and fulfill their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law,” Guterres said, adding that “there is no way the Afghan economy and society will recover” without the inclusion of women.
Now that the Taliban have regained power, there have been reports that Afghan women have been prevented from returning to work and barred from playing sports, indicating a return to the repression that characterized the group’s rule from two decades ago.
That era ended when the US military invaded Afghanistan in 2001 — the US pullout from Afghanistan this year precipitated the Taliban’s return to power.
wmr,wd,es/jsi (Reuters,AFP, dpa)