Taliban, Western officials meet for talks in Oslo

Taliban, Western officials meet for talks in Oslo

access_time2022-01-24 13:53:52

Taliban and Western diplomats meet in Oslo on Monday for talks on Afghanistan's humanitarian crisis and human rights, especially those of women whose freedoms have been curbed by the hardline Islamists.

In their first visit to Europe since returning to power in August, the Taliban will meet representatives of the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Italy, the European Union and Norway.

The Taliban delegation is headed by Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi.

The closed-door discussions, facilitated by Norway, are being held at the Soria Moria Hotel, on a snowy hilltop outside Oslo.

The discussions are expected to focus on Afghanistan's humanitarian situation, which has deteriorated drastically since last August when the fundamentalists stormed back to power 20 years after being toppled.

International aid came to a halt, worsening the plight of millions of people already suffering from hunger after several severe droughts.

Thomas West, the US special representative for Afghanistan, tweeted on Sunday: "As we seek to address humanitarian crisis together with allies, partners, and relief orgs, we will continue clear-eyed diplomacy with the Taliban regarding our concerns and our abiding interest in a stable, rights-respecting and inclusive Afghanistan."

No country has yet recognised the Taliban government, and Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt stressed the talks would "not represent a legitimisation or recognition of the Taliban".

"But we must talk to the de facto authorities in the country. We cannot allow the political situation to lead to an even worse humanitarian disaster," Huitfeldt said Friday.

Meanwhile, the Taliban hope the talks will help "transform the atmosphere of war... into a peaceful situation", government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP on Saturday.

Since August, international aid, which financed around 80 percent of the Afghan budget, has been suspended and the United States has frozen $9.5 billion in assets in the Afghan central bank.

Unemployment has skyrocketed and civil servants' salaries have not been paid for months in the country, already ravaged by several severe droughts.

Hunger now threatens 23 million Afghans, or 55 percent of the population, according to the United Nations, which says it needs $4.4 billion from donor countries this year to address the humanitarian crisis.


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