The Taliban and Western diplomats are meeting outside the Norwegian capital, Oslo, for talks focused on the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, which has escalated dramatically since last August, when the Taliban returned to power 20 years after they were ousted in a US-led invasion.
Closed-door discussions with representatives of the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Italy, the European Union and Norway took place on Monday at the Soria Moria Hotel on a snowy hill near Oslo.
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 to break the ice.”
“The Taliban have shown good will … Let’s see what their actions will be based on their words,” she said.
The 15-member delegation, made up entirely of men, arrived on Saturday on a plane chartered by the Norwegian government.
Defrosting of assets
The Taliban are demanding that his nearly $ 10 billion assets held by the United States be released and that Afghanistan be linked to world trade.
International aid came to a halt after the Taliban returned to power on August 15th, exacerbating the plight of millions of people who are already starving after severe droughts.
The freezing of billions of US dollars worth of assets from Afghanistan’s central bank and the suspension of funds from international financial institutions have sparked a banking crisis and nearly collapsed the Afghan economy.
“We ask them to unfreeze Afghan assets and not punish ordinary Afghans for political discourse,” Taliban delegate Shafiula Azam told the Associated Press at the end of the first day of talks.
“Because of the famine, because of the deadly winter, I think it is time for the international community to support the Afghans, not to punish them for their political disputes.
He also said that meetings with Western officials were “a step towards legitimizing the (a) Afghan government”, adding that “this kind of invitation and communication will help (the) European community, the (US) or many other countries”. to delete the wrong photo of the Afghan government. “
Earlier, however, Norwegian Foreign Minister Aniken Huitfeld stressed that the talks “are not a legitimation or recognition of the Taliban”.
A US delegation led by the Special Representative for Afghanistan, Tom West, plans to discuss “building a representative political system; responses to urgent humanitarian and economic crises; security and counter-terrorism concerns; and human rights, especially education for girls and women, “said a statement issued by the US State Department.
Protest against the Taliban
On Sunday, 200 protesters gathered in an icy square in front of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry in Oslo to condemn meetings with the Taliban, which have not received diplomatic recognition from any foreign government.
“The Taliban has not changed, as some in the international community like to say,” said Ahman Yasir, a Norwegian Afghan who has lived in Norway for about 20 years. “They are as brutal as they were in 2001 and before.”
Fawziya Kufi, a former deputy speaker of the Afghan parliament who is also involved in talks with the Taliban, told Al Jazeera that the current talks only help consolidate the group’s power.
“In a situation where there is a lot of disunity and the political community in Afghanistan has not taken steps to unite and a common position at the negotiating table, the talks will further weaken our position and further strengthen that of the Taliban,” she said.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, meanwhile, tweeted: “All Afghans need to work together for better political, economic and security results.
“The participants … acknowledged that understanding and working together are the only solutions.
After coming to power in mid-August, the Taliban imposed widespread restrictions, many targeting women, many of whom were barred from working in certain jobs outside of health and education.
The girls from the high school are locked in their homes because the schools are not open yet. Last week, the Taliban promised that all girls would be able to return to school by the end of March.
However, the Taliban did not impose a ban on burqas, which was mandatory when they previously ruled Afghanistan in the 1990s.
The Taliban have been accused of targeting human rights groups as well as journalists, and in many cases detained them.