ISTANBUL / NEW YORK (Aftenposten): The extreme Islamists’ visit to Oslo has provoked reactions. The first inquiry came from Norway.
This is confirmed by State Secretary Henrik Thune (Labor Party) to Aftenposten on Tuesday.
– We were the ones who took the initiative for the meeting. The meeting has been planned in consultation with allies, Thune writes in an e-mail sent via the communications department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The Taliban delegation landed at Gardermoen on Saturday night. For three days, the extreme Islamists have been in talks with representatives of Norway and other western countries. They have also met with representatives of Afghan civil society.
Thune confirms that the planning has been going on since mid-November.
– But there was a lot of uncertainty, not least because of the infection situation. It was not until the beginning of January that it became clear that it would take place, writes Thune.
In Oslo for security reasons
Special representatives of Afghanistan from the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Italy, France and Germany, as well as the United Nations, will also attend the meeting.
Thune further writes that the security situation means that it is not possible to hold such a meeting in Afghanistan now.
The meeting with the Taliban was planned before the Norwegian ambassador Ole A. Lindeman and two Norwegian diplomats traveled to Kabul in mid-January.
Aftenposten has asked the Foreign Ministry if it was during this visit that the Taliban received the invitation. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not responded specifically.
– Norway has had a dialogue with the Taliban for several years. After the Taliban took power in the country in August last year, NGOs and other parts of the Afghan community have asked for help to get in touch with those who actually govern the country now, Thune writes.
Does not face the Taliban
The agenda for the talks has been human rights and emergency aid. But for the Taliban, an important goal has been to gain international recognition.
Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt (Labor Party) has been clear that the meetings in Oslo are not a legitimation of the Taliban government. She will therefore not meet the Taliban during the visit.
However, her Secretary of State Henrik Thune did on Tuesday.
While they have been in Oslo, the Taliban, for their part, have stated that the meetings are the first step on the road to international recognition.
The visit has created strong reactions. Afghans in Norway believe the authorities flattering the Taliban.
The private plane that the delegation brought with cost NOK 3.5 million. The visit costs Norwegian taxpayers a total of NOK 7 million.
Støre: Not a day too early
Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre is in New York this week. On Tuesday afternoon Norwegian time, he will chair a meeting of the UN Security Council on Afghanistan.
Støre tells Aftenposten that he understands the reactions.
– I understand that many react to seeing the Taliban in Norway. They have a set of values that is as far from ours as it is possible to get.
– When did it become clear that the Taliban could come?
– It has been a process. We have had diplomats inside Kabul to keep in touch that way. It was convenient for us to do it now, and it was not a day too soon.
He refers to the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and that the danger of a new influx of refugees is great.
– The alternative would have been to say that we do not do this, it does not happen with us. Then there is a good chance that it would not have happened. I think the consequences of that could be horrific.
Thank you Norway for the initiative
The US special envoys have expressed that they are pleased that Norway has taken the initiative to invite the Taliban and Afghan civil society.
“Welcomes our host’s initiative to bring Afghan civil society and the Taliban together for dialogue,” wrote US Special Envoy to Afghanistan Thomas West Twitter.
Also Rina Amiri writes that she is «happy that Norway invited Afghan women and civil society representatives to direct engagement with the Taliban».
Amiri is the US Special Envoy for Afghan Women, Girls and Human Rights.