Taliban, Western officials hold talks on food crisis

AFP
January 25, 2022

OSLO: On their first visit to Europe since returning to power, the Taliban held landmark talks with Western diplomats here on Monday over the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, where hunger...

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OSLO: On their first visit to Europe since returning to power, the Taliban held landmark talks with Western diplomats here on Monday over the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, where hunger threatens more than half population.

The international community has, however, insisted the Taliban must respect human rights before aid can be resumed to Afghanistan. Having accepted a controversial invitation from Norway, the Taliban were holding talks with representatives of the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Italy, the European Union and Norway.

The closed-door discussions were being held at the Soria Moria Hotel, on a snowy hilltop outside Oslo, with the Taliban delegation led by Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi. Afghanistan's humanitarian situation has deteriorated drastically since last August when the fundamentalists stormed back to power 20 years after being toppled.

Norway's Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt has stressed the talks would "not represent a legitimisation or recognition of the Taliban", but because of the humanitarian emergency "we must talk to the de facto authorities in the country".

Several experts and members of the Afghan diaspora have criticised the Norwegian invitation to the Taliban, and several protests have been held outside the foreign ministry in the capital. In Kabul, Wahida Amiri, an activist who has protested regularly in Kabul since the Taliban's return, told AFP she was "sorry for such a country as Norway for organising this summit, sitting with terrorists, and making deals".

"It saddens me a lot. Shame on the world for accepting this and opening doors to the Taliban," she told AFP. “Norway has invited criminals and terrorists who have no respect for women’s rights and human rights,” an activist from Bamiyan who asked not to be identified told AFP.

“They (the Taliban) are against women and humanity and they do not believe in freedom of speech.” Before meeting with the Taliban, the Western diplomats held talks early Monday with members of Afghanistan's civil society, including women activists and journalists, who had themselves held talks the day before with the hardline Islamists on human rights.

One of those in attendance, women's rights activist Jamila Afghani, told AFP "it was a positive icebreaking meeting" where the Taliban "displayed goodwill", but it remained to be seen "what their actions will be".

On Monday, another woman activist who took part in Oslo, Mahbouba Seraj, said the Taliban "acknowledged us and they heard us". "I’m hopeful. I´m hoping for some kind of an understanding of each other", she told reporters. Meanwhile, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted after their talks that "the participants recognised that understanding and joint cooperation are the only solutions".

Among the 15 members of the all-male Taliban delegation was Anas Haqqani, a leader of the most feared and violent faction of the Taliban movement, the Haqqani network blamed for some of the most devastating attacks in Afghanistan.



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