Taliban and Western officials are meeting outside Oslo, Norway, for talks on Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis, which has worsened dramatically since the Taliban retook power last August, 20 years after being deposed in a used assault.
On Monday, delegates from the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, the European Union, and Norway will meet behind closed doors at the Soria Moria Hotel on a snowy mountaintop outside Oslo.
The Taliban met with Afghan civil society members, including women activists and journalists, on the opening day of the three-day discussions on Sunday to discuss human rights. “It was a nice ice-breaking meeting,” said Jamila Afghani, a women’s rights activist who attended the talks on Sunday, according to the AFP news agency.
“The Taliban shown goodwill… Let’s wait and see what their deeds are based on their rhetoric,” she remarked. The 15 members of the all-male group landed on a Norwegian government-chartered jet on Saturday.
The Taliban has demanded that the US surrender its almost $10 billion in assets and that Afghanistan be linked to global trade. Following the Taliban’s return to power on August 15, international aid came to a standstill, exacerbating the misery of millions of people already starving as a result of severe droughts.
The United States’ freeze of Afghan central bank assets worth billions of dollars, as well as international financial institutions’ suspension of funds, has precipitated a banking crisis and brought the Afghan economy dangerously close to collapse.
“We are urging that they unfreeze Afghan assets and not penalize regular Afghans because of the political discourse,” Taliban representative Shafiullah Azam said at the end of the first day of talks. I believe it is time for the international community to support Afghans rather than penalize them because of their political differences, because of the famine and the harsh winter.
“He further stated that the talks with Western officials were “a step toward legitimizing (the) Afghan government,” and that “this type of invitation and communication will assist (the) European community, (the) US, or many other nations in erasing the incorrect picture of the Afghan government.
“The talks, however, were “neither a legitimization nor acknowledgment of the Taliban,” according to Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt. According to a statement released by the US State Department, a US delegation led by Special Representative for Afghanistan Tom West will discuss “the formation of a representative particularly education for girls and women.”
Protest Against Taliban:
On Sunday, 200 protestors gathered in front of the Norwegian foreign ministry in Oslo on an icy square to criticize the Taliban meetings, which have received no diplomatic recognition from any other country.
“The Taliban has not evolved as some in the international community would have you believe,” Ahman Yasir, a Norwegian Afghan who has lived in Norway for approximately 20 years, said.
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