Humanitarian aid tops agenda as Taliban meet Western officials

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Representatives of the Taliban arrive in Gardermoen, Norway, on Saturday. AP

Gulf Today Report

Human rights and the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, where hunger threatens millions, will be in focus at talks opening on Sunday in Oslo between the Taliban, the West and members of Afghan civil society.

A Taliban delegation arrived on Saturday in Norway for three days of talks with Western diplomats and members of Afghan civil society, which it hopes will help “transform the atmosphere of war” in Afghanistan.


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

The Taliban delegation will be led by Foreign Minister Amir Khan Mutaqqi.

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Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Mutaqqi speaks with the press in Kabul. File/AFP

On the agenda will be “the formation of a representative political system, responses to the urgent humanitarian and economic crises, security and counter-terrorism concerns, and human rights, especially education for girls and women”, a US State Department official said.

Footage broadcast by the Verdens Gang newspaper online showed a plane, chartered by the Norwegian government and carrying 15 representatives of the hardline government, landing at the Oslo airport in the evening.

The delegation is the first to hold official talks with the West on European soil since seizing power in Afghanistan.

The Taliban stormed back to power in August as US and foreign troops began their final withdrawal from the country following a stalemate on the battlefield.

No country has yet recognised the Taliban’s government — notorious for human rights abuses during a first stint in power between 1996 and 2001 when they were ousted by a US-led invasion.

“The Islamic Emirate has taken steps for meeting the demands of the Western world and we hope to strengthen our relations through diplomacy with all the countries, including European countries and the West in general,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP on Saturday.

The Taliban want to “transform the atmosphere of war… into a peaceful situation”.

The talks will open on Sunday with Afghans from civil society, including women leaders and journalists, at a time when the freedoms of those living in Afghanistan are being increasingly curtailed.

 

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