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Under-pressure Taliban to meet EU, US in diplomatic push

BSS/AFP, DOHA
Under-pressure Taliban to meet EU, US in diplomatic push

The Taliban held their first face-to-face  talks with a joint EU-US delegation Tuesday in Qatar as the hardline  Islamists pursue their diplomatic push for international support. 

   Afghanistan's new rulers are seeking recognition, as well as assistance to  avoid a humanitarian disaster, after they returned to power in August  following the withdrawal of US troops after 20 years of war. 

   UN chief Antonio Guterres urged the world to donate to Afghanistan to head  off its economic collapse, but also slammed the Taliban's "broken" promises  to Afghan women and girls. 

   The direct talks in Doha were facilitated by Qatar which has long hosted a  Taliban political office. 

   EU spokeswoman Nabila Massrali said the meeting would "allow the US and  European side to address issues" including free passage for people wanting to  leave, access for humanitarian aid, respect for the rights of women and  preventing Afghanistan becoming a haven for "terrorist" groups. 

   "This is an informal exchange at technical level. It does not constitute  recognition of the 'interim government'," she said. 

   The Taliban badly need assistance as Afghanistan's economy is in a parlous  state with international aid cut off, food prices rising and unemployment  spiking. 

   The regime, still yet to be recognised as a legitimate government by any  other country, is also facing a security threat from the Islamic State-
Khorasan (IS-K) group, who have launched a series of deadly attacks. 

   "We want positive relationships with the whole world," the Taliban's  acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi said at an earlier event in Qatar. 

  "We believe in balanced international relations.

We believe such a balanced  relationship can save Afghanistan from instability," said Muttaqi, who led  the Taliban delegation Saturday for the first in-person talks with US  officials since the American pullout. 

   - Staving off 'collapse' - 

   Ahead of Tuesday's talks, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the  bloc was looking to bolster its direct aid to the Afghan people in an effort  to stave off "collapse". "We cannot 'wait and see'. We need to act, and act  quickly," Borrell said after discussions with EU development ministers. 

   The international community is facing a tough balancing act trying to get  urgently needed aid to Afghans without endorsing Taliban rule. 

   G20 leaders were to hold a virtual summit on Tuesday to discuss the  humanitarian and security situation following the Taliban takeover. 

   It was not clear if all the leaders of the G20 economic powers, which  include the United States, EU, China, Turkey, Russia and Saudi Arabia among  others, would join the meeting organised by Italy. 

   But an Italian government official said it would be "mostly heads of state  and government". 

   Guterres underscored discontent with the Taliban over its treatment of  women despite vows it would not repeat its earlier hardline rule. 

   "I am particularly alarmed to see promises made to Afghan women and girls  by the Taliban being broken," he told reporters Monday. 

   Afghanistan's boys were allowed to return to secondary schools three weeks  ago, but girls have been told to stay at home along with women teachers in  much of the country, though they can attend primary school. 

   Asked about the exclusion of girls, Muttaqi said schools had been closed  because of Covid-19 -- a threat he said had lessened. 

   "Covid... has been controlled and incidences are very few, and with the  reduction of that risk, opening of schools has already started and every day  it is increasing," he said. 

   Muttaqi also insisted there was no discrimination against the Shiite  community and claimed that IS-K was being tamed. 

   "Whatever preparations they had made have been neutralised 98 percent," he  said. 

   IS-K claimed a bombing of a Shiite mosque that killed more than 60 people  on Friday, the deadliest attack since the US pullout. 

   Underlining the shaky security situation, the US and Britain warned their  citizens on Monday to avoid hotels in Afghanistan. 

   Spain was to organise a second evacuation flight for Afghans Tuesday after  flying 84 from Pakistan to a base near Madrid on Monday. 

   Madrid evacuated more than 2,000 people, most of them Afghans who had  worked for Spain and their families, during the Western withdrawal from Kabul  in August but the flights had to stop once the last American troops left. 

HM

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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