Taliban, Afghan civil society begin talks in Oslo
January 24 2022 12:19 AM
Taliban, Afghan
This handout photograph released by the Afghan Taliban shows Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi (centre), senior official member Anas Haqqani (right) and delegates posing for pictures before departing to Oslo, at the Kabul airport in Kabul. (AFP)

AFP/Oslo

The first Taliban delegation to visit Europe since returning to power in Afghanistan began talks yesterday in Oslo with Afghan civil society members focused on human rights, ahead of highly-anticipated meetings with Western officials.
Headed by Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, the delegation is to dedicate the first day of their three-day visit to talks with women activists and journalists, among others.
The discussions, which are being facilitated by Norway and are to focus on human rights and the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, are taking place behind closed doors at the Soria Moria Hotel on the outskirts of Oslo.
The humanitarian situation has deteriorated drastically since August, when the Taliban stormed back to power 20 years after being toppled.
International aid came to a sudden halt after their takeover, worsening the plight of millions of people who were already suffering from hunger after several severe droughts. The Islamists were ousted by a US-led coalition in 2001 but took over again amid a hasty withdrawal by international forces. No country has yet recognised the Taliban government, and Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt stressed that the talks would “not represent a legitimisation or recognition of the Taliban”.
“But we must talk to the de facto authorities in the country. We cannot allow the political situation to lead to an even worse humanitarian disaster,” Huitfeldt said Friday.
A handful of demonstrators protested outside the Norwegian foreign ministry on Saturday.
Today, the Taliban will meet with representatives of the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Italy and the European Union, while tomorrow will be dedicated to bilateral talks with Norwegian officials.
In an interview with AFP on Saturday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the hardline Islamists hoped the talks would help “transform the atmosphere of war... into a peaceful situation”.
Joining the delegation from Kabul is Anas Haqqani, a leader of the most feared and violent faction of the Taliban movement — the Haqqani network, responsible for some of the most devastating attacks in Afghanistan.
A senior official with no formal government title, he was jailed for several years at the United States’ Bagram detention centre outside of the capital Kabul before being released in a prisoner swap in 2019.



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