Western diplomats have told the Taliban that humanitarian aid to Afghanistan will be linked to improved human rights, according to reports following meetings with a Taliban delegation that ended in Oslo, Norway.
Meetings were held behind closed doors during the Taliban’s first official trip to Europe since returning to power in August. Following the talks, the Taliban delegation left Norway late Tuesday without making final statements.
The Taliban want international recognition and the release of billions of dollars in assets of the Afghan central bank, frozen by the United States after the return of the group to power on August 15, 2021.
The country has also been cut off from international financial institutions following the group’s return, sparking a banking crisis and fears a war-torn economy will collapse.
Since then, the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated rapidly, exacerbating the plight of millions of people who are already starving after severe droughts after decades of war and occupation.
Aid has also dried up after the United States reinstated sanctions after the Taliban takeover.
Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) Secretary-General Jan Egeland, who is taking part in the talks, called for the sanctions to be lifted, telling AFP: “We cannot save lives unless all sanctions are lifted.
The aid freeze “hurts the same civilians that NATO countries have spent hundreds of billions on to defend by August,” he said.
About 55 percent of Afghanistan’s population is now starving, according to the United Nations.
Western diplomats are outlining the issues
The Taliban delegation, led by Foreign Minister Amir Khan Mutaki, met with senior French Foreign Ministry official Bertrand Lotolari, British Special Envoy Nigel Casey and members of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry.
Western diplomats have outlined what they expect from the Taliban during the talks.
EU Special Envoy to Afghanistan Thomas Nicklason wrote on Twitter that “he also stressed the need to make primary and secondary schools accessible to boys and girls across the country when the school year begins in March.”
He responded to a tweet from an Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman welcoming the EU’s commitment to “continue its humanitarian aid to Afghanistan”.
I also emphasized the need for primary and secondary schools to be accessible to boys and girls across the country when the school year begins in March – and discussed the commitment with UN-designated special rapporteurs. We look forward to our next meeting. https://t.co/3ChjbvMQ8k
– Thomas Niklasson (@tomas_niklasson) January 25, 2022
Last week, the Taliban promised that all the girls would return to school by the end of March.
At the UN in New York, Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gar Store said the talks looked “serious” and “real”.
“We have clarified that we want to see girls back in school in March, also those over 12 years old. We want to see humanitarian access, “he said.
The Taliban are demanding the $ 10 billion frozen by the United States and other Western countries, but no agreement has been reached so far.
The group welcomed the talks this week as a step towards international recognition.
Speaking on the sidelines of Monday’s talks, the Taliban’s foreign minister said: “The provision of this opportunity by Norway is an achievement in itself. “From these meetings, we are confident that we will receive support for the humanitarian, health and education sectors of Afghanistan,” he told the AP.
Mutaki said the Taliban government would “do everything in its power to protect Afghanistan from all kinds of problems, to attract more aid, to seek solutions to economic problems.”
The UN has managed to provide some liquidity and allow the Taliban administration to pay for imports, including electricity.
“The number one problem now is that Western sanctions are creating a liquidity crisis, which means we can’t get funding to help the country,” Egeland told the NRC.
No country has yet recognized the Taliban, and the international community is waiting to see how the Taliban intend to rule before granting aid.
Norway says the talks “do not constitute legitimation or recognition of the Taliban.”
Speaking to reporters, Foreign Minister Store said that “talking to the Taliban” and “holding them accountable is the right thing to do” and that the Oslo talks were a “simple framework for dealing with them, conveying messages and holding them accountable”. from them”.
But the decision to invite the group – and fly them on a high-cost charter plane – has been heavily criticized by some experts, diaspora members and Afghan activists.
Magazin said he knew many were worried about the meeting, but said: “The alternative is to leave Afghanistan, a million children at risk of starvation … this is not an option. We have to deal with the world as it is. ”
Earlier, Norwegian Secretary of State Henrik Thun said: “This is not the beginning of … an open process.”
“We will make tangible demands that we can follow up and see if they are met,” he told Norwegian news agency NTB ahead of talks with the delegation on Tuesday night.
The requests were to include the possibility of providing humanitarian aid directly to the Afghan people, according to the NTB.
Norway also had to call for respect for human rights, especially those of women and minorities, such as access to education and health services, the right to work and freedom of movement.
The Taliban are demanding modernization
Although the group claims to have modernized, women are still largely excluded from public sector employment and many girls’ secondary schools remain closed.
Norway is believed to have lifted the plight of two women activists who went missing in Kabul last week after taking part in a demonstration. The Taliban have denied responsibility.
On Sunday, the first day of the three-day talks, the Taliban met with members of Afghan civil society, including women activists and journalists, to discuss human rights.
Women’s rights activist Jamila Afgani, who attended Sunday’s talks, told AFP that “it was a positive meeting that broke the ice.”
“The Taliban have shown good will … Let’s see what their actions will be based on their words,” she said.
In Oslo, a Western observer told AFP during the talks that “there have been some growing changes on both sides.”
“But I think we will need more of these meetings before the Taliban and the West find a way to deal with each other.”
Norway will chair the UN Security Council meeting on Afghanistan in New York on Wednesday.