Friday, May 20, 2022

Western diplomats meet Afghan activists amid Taliban talks

Oslo, Norway ( Associated Press) – Western diplomats are meeting with Afghan women’s rights activists and human rights defenders in Oslo ahead of the first official talks with the Taliban in Europe since taking control of Afghanistan in August.

The closed-door meeting was an opportunity to hear from civil society and the expatriate Afghan people in Afghanistan about their demands and their assessment of the current situation on the ground. The meeting was taking place at a hotel in the snow-capped mountains above the Norwegian capital and was attended by representatives from the European Union, the US, the UK, France, Italy and host Norway.

The three-day talks began on Sunday with a direct meeting between representatives of the Taliban and civil society.

A joint statement tweeted overnight by Afghan Deputy Culture and Information Minister Zabihullah Mujahid after the talks read that “meeting participants recognized that understanding and joint cooperation is the only solution to all of Afghanistan’s problems,” and that But stressed that “all Afghans need to work together for better political, economic and security outcomes in the country.”

Later on Monday, Western diplomats are set to meet with Taliban representatives, who will be sure to push for their demand that the nearly $10 billion frozen by the United States and other Western nations be released as Afghanistan facing a precarious humanitarian situation.

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“We are requesting them to unfreeze Afghan assets and not punish ordinary Afghans for political discourse,” said Taliban representative Shafiullah Azam. “Because of starvation, because of the deadly winter, I think it is time for the international community to support the Afghans, not punish them because of their political disputes.”

The UN has managed to provide some liquidity and allow the Taliban administration to pay for imports, including electricity. But the United Nations has warned that at least one million Afghan children are at risk of starvation and that most of the country’s 38 million people live below the poverty line.

Faced with requests for funding from the Taliban, Western powers are likely to put women’s and girls’ rights at the top of their agenda in Afghanistan, as well as power sharing with Afghanistan’s minority ethnic and religious groups by the Taliban administration. With the recurring demand of the West.

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Since coming to power in mid-August, the Taliban have imposed sweeping sanctions, many of them directed at women. Women have been banned from many jobs outside the fields of health and education, their access to education has been restricted beyond sixth grade and ordered to wear the hijab. However, the Taliban have stopped wearing the burqa, which was mandatory when they first ruled Afghanistan in the 1990s.

The Taliban have targeted Afghanistan’s beleaguered rights groups, as well as journalists, detentions and sometimes television crews covering demonstrations.

A US delegation led by Special Representative for Afghanistan Tom West plans to discuss “the formation of a representative political system”. responses to immediate humanitarian and economic crises; security and counter-terrorism concerns; and human rights, especially education for girls and women,” according to a statement issued by the US State Department.

The Scandinavian country, home of the Nobel Peace Prize, is no stranger to diplomacy. It has been involved in peace efforts in several countries including Mozambique, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Colombia, the Philippines, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Syria, Myanmar, Somalia, Sri Lanka and South Sudan.

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