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Western leaders press Taliban in Oslo to improve human rights

AT News

KABUL: Western diplomats Tuesday linked humanitarian aid to Afghanistan to an improvement in human rights after meeting a Taliban delegation on a visit to Europe from Monday to Tuesday.

On the final day of the Taliban‘s first official trip to Europe since returning to power in August, the fundamentalists held talks behind closed doors with several Western diplomats.

The Taliban are seeking international recognition and financial aid.

Afghanistan‘s humanitarian situation has rapidly deteriorated since the Taliban returned to power in August 2021, when international aid came to a sudden halt, worsening the plight of millions of people already suffering from hunger after several severe droughts.

Western diplomats laid out what they expected from the Taliban during the talks.

The European Union’s special envoy to Afghanistan, Tomas Niklasson, wrote on Twitter that he had “underlined the need for primary and secondary schools to be accessible for boys and girls throughout the country when the school year starts in March”.

He was responding to a tweet from a spokesman for the Afghan foreign ministry hailing the EU’s commitment to “continue its humanitarian aid to Afghanistan”.

The Taliban delegation, led by Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, met senior French foreign ministry official Bertrand Lotholary, Britain’s special envoy Nigel Casey, and members of the Norwegian foreign ministry.

At the United Nations in New York, Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said the talks appeared to have been “serious” and “genuine”.

“We made clear we want to see girls back in school in March, also those above 12. We want to see humanitarian access,” he said.

The Taliban have hailed this week’s talks — held in a hotel near Oslo — as a step toward international recognition.

The Taliban foreign minister on the sidelines of talks on Monday said: “Norway providing us this opportunity is an achievement in itself because we shared the stage with the world.”

“From these meetings we are sure of getting support for Afghanistan’s humanitarian, health and education sectors,” he added.  

Norway has insisted the talks do “not represent a legitimisation or recognition of the Taliban”.

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