Sunday, May 22

Taliban delegation in Oslo to start talks with Western diplomats

This is a first since the resumption of control of Afghanistan by the Taliban. From Monday, Taliban representatives are in Oslo (Norway) to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

The talks are to be held over three days, the BBC. They will address the issue of respect for human rights but also the humanitarian emergency in Afghanistan, where 95% of the population lacks food according to the UN.

The Taliban delegation is led by their foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi. It meets that of Western countries with representatives of the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, the European Union and Norway.

“While seeking to resolve the humanitarian crisis, we will pursue lucid diplomacy with the Taliban (driven by) our abiding interest in a stable, rights-respecting and inclusive Afghanistan,” US Special Representative Thomas West tweeted on Sunday.

No state has so far recognized the government of the Taliban, Islamist fundamentalists ousted from power in 2001 but returned last August after a lightning offensive. “But we have to talk to the authorities who are de facto running the country,” Norwegian foreign minister Anniken Huitfeldt said on Friday.

Women’s rights scrutinized by Western countries

In an interview published by AFP on Saturday, Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid shared his hope that the talks would help “change the atmosphere of war into a peaceful situation”.

Hunger now threatens 23 million Afghans, or 55% of the population, according to the UN, which has requested 4.4 billion dollars from donor countries this year.

For its part, the international community is waiting to see how the Taliban governs, having trampled on human rights during their first stint in power between 1996 and 2001.

At present, women are largely excluded from public sector jobs and secondary schools for girls remain mostly closed. Two feminist activists disappeared this week in Kabul.

On Sunday, the first day of the three-day visit, the Taliban met with members of Afghan civil society, including feminist activists and journalists, for talks on human rights.

Participants stressed “that all Afghans must work together for political, economic and security improvement in the country,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted in what he described as a “statement spouse”.

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