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Taliban talks positive towards breaking the ice

Participants in the Oslo meetings, on Sunday, confirmed that the Taliban’s talks are positive towards “breaking the ice.”

The first Taliban delegation to visit Europe since the movement’s return to power in Afghanistan began talks on Sunday with representatives of Afghan civil society on the issue of human rights, according to the Norwegian Foreign Ministry.

The delegation, led by the Taliban’s Foreign Minister, Amir Khan Muttaki, dedicated the first day of its three-day visit to Norway, to hold talks with Afghan women activists and journalists.

In their first visit to Europe since they returned to power last August, the Taliban also met with Norwegian officials as well as representatives from the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Italy and the European Union.

Taliban delegation arrives in Norway

A US State Department official stated that the meeting’s agenda includes “forming a political system representative of all Afghans and addressing the urgent humanitarian and economic crises, and concerns related to security and combating terrorism, as well as the issue of human rights, especially the education of girls and women.”

The Taliban was overthrown in 2001, but it returned to power in August with the completion of the international forces’ final withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The spokesman for the Taliban government, Zabihullah Mujahid, told “AFP”, Saturday, that the movement hopes that the talks will contribute to “changing the atmosphere of war … to a peaceful situation.”

No country has yet recognized the Taliban government. Norwegian Foreign Minister Anneken Hoetfeldt stressed that the talks “will not legitimize or recognize the Taliban.”

“But we have to talk to the authorities who are de facto running the country. We cannot allow the political situation to lead to an even worse humanitarian catastrophe,” she added.

The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated significantly since August. Suddenly, international aid, which had financed about 80% of Afghanistan’s budget, was halted, while the United States froze $9.5 billion in assets in the Afghan Central Bank.

Meanwhile, unemployment rates have soared, and government sector salaries have not been paid for months, while the country has witnessed several droughts.

Today, the specter of hunger threatens 23 million Afghans, which is equivalent to 55 percent of the population, according to United Nations data, which indicates that it needs $4.4 billion from donor countries this year to deal with the humanitarian crisis.

Distributing aid to displaced people in Afghanistan

In this context, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Friday: “It would be wrong to subject the Afghan people to collective punishment because the de facto authorities are not acting appropriately.”

The international community is still waiting to know how the Taliban intends to rule Afghanistan, after they largely ignored the issue of human rights during their first term between 1996 and 2001.

The Taliban insist they are becoming more moderate, but women are still largely denied employment in the public sector and most secondary schools remain closed to girls.

Norway has a long record of playing a mediating role in conflicts including in the Middle East, Sri Lanka and Colombia.