Against the backdrop of a looming humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan, the Taliban arrived in Oslo for official talks with Western representatives. The Norwegian government announced that a Taliban delegation led by Foreign Minister Amir Shan Mottaki met with representatives of Afghan civil society on Sunday. Meetings with Western diplomats are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.
During the day, the Taliban delegation was scheduled to meet Afghan women’s rights activists and journalists, among others. Talks are taking place behind closed doors.
First official conversations
According to the Norwegian government, representatives from the United States and several European countries, including Germany and France, will participate in the political talks on Monday and Tuesday. These are the first official talks between representatives of the West and the Taliban government, which is not internationally recognized on European soil.
The focus is on the human rights situation and the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Since the Taliban took power in August after 20 years of fighting against the US-backed and NATO-backed government, the state of emergency in Afghanistan has escalated dramatically. According to the United Nations, millions of people in the country are at risk of starvation.
Dealing with the humanitarian situation is highly controversial due to human rights violations by the extremist Islamist Taliban movement. In December, the United Nations Security Council unanimously decided to allow humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. However, assistance should not fall directly into the hands of Islamists. So far, no country has officially recognized the Taliban government.
Not all of them are happy with conversations
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed on Friday that the people of Afghanistan as a whole should not be punished for the misconduct of the “de facto authorities”. “We can no longer push aid to bypass the Taliban,” former UN envoy to the Hindu Kush Kai Eide told AFP. The government there has to be involved somehow.
Not everyone sees it that way. The former Afghan Minister of Mines and Petroleum Narges Nihan, who now lives in Norway, refused to attend the Oslo talks. She told AFP she feared this would lead to “normalization” and “strengthening” of the Taliban. “What guarantee this time that they will keep their promises?”
During the Islamists’ first rule in the 1990s, women in Afghanistan were virtually forbidden from public life. The Taliban has now announced, among other things, that it will respect women’s rights to work and education. However, reports of activists being arrested, protests suppressed, and discriminatory rules against women cast doubt on this.
“Indeed, apartheid between the sexes”
“The Taliban effectively set up the gender apartheid system,” said Daoud Moradian, head of the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies, now based outside of Afghanistan. Norway is jeopardizing its reputation as an advocate for women’s rights by initiating talks.
And Norwegian Foreign Minister Anken Hoetfeldt stressed before the start of the meeting that the talks in Oslo meant “the illegitimacy or recognition of the Taliban.” But we have to talk to the authorities who are actually running the country. We must not allow the political situation to escalate into an even worse humanitarian catastrophe.” For their part, the Taliban expressed the hope that relations with the West would improve before the talks began. (AFP)
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