Taliban delegation heads for Oslo talks

Taliban soldiers patrolling the streets of Kabul amid snowfall.

Taliban soldiers patrolling the streets of Kabul amid snowfall.

The Taliban’s first official talks with the West on European soil since seizing power in Afghanistan will help to “transform the atmosphere of war” after a two-decade insurgency against NATO forces, the group’s top spokesman told AFP on Saturday.

The Islamists stormed back to power in August as U.S. 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 U.S.-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,” Zabihullah Mujahid said on Saturday.

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

The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated since the Taliban’s takeover. International aid came to a sudden halt and the U.S. has frozen $9.5 billion in Afghan central bank assets held overseas.

Hunger now threatens 23 million Afghans, or 55% of the population, says the UN.

The Oslo visit from Sunday to Tuesday will be focussed on human rights and humanitarian aid as a poverty crisis deepens in Afghanistan. The hardline Islamists will meet Norwegian authorities and officials from a number of allied countries including Britain, the European Union, France, Germany, Italy and the U.S., the Norwegian Foreign Ministry statement said.

The delegation is also expected to meet Afghans from civil society, including women leaders and journalists.

“These meetings do not represent a legitimisation or recognition of the Taliban” Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said Friday. “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.”

The 15-member Taliban team represented by men, and led by Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, left Kabul on Saturday on a plane organised by the Norwegian government, a Taliban spokesman said.

Ali Maisam Nazary, the foreign relations chief for the National Resistance Front (NRF) — an opposition group — condemned Norway over the talks.

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Printable version | May 16, 2022 5:21:23 pm |