Taliban’s desire for international recognition only leverage, says UN chief

UN secretary general António Guterres says he is willing to speak to the Taliban himself

Maroosha Muzaffar
Friday 20 August 2021 12:43
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UN secretary general António Guterres calls for a united front in potential talks with Taliban

The Taliban’s desire for international recognition is the only leverage available to the United Nations Security Council to press for an inclusive government and respect for rights, especially those of women in Afghanistan, UN secretary general António Guterres said on Thursday.

Mr Guterres also said that he is willing to speak to the Taliban himself “when it is clear with whom should I speak, for what purpose,” he told the media at the UN’s New York headquarters.

In the closed-door meeting with the 15-member body on Monday, the UN chief also noted that the agency’s officials have been in close contact with the Taliban.

“It is important for the international community to be united, for all members of the Security Council to be united, to use the only leverage that exists, which is the interests of the Taliban for legitimacy for recognition,” he said.

The Taliban took control Afghanistan on Sunday after two decades. There have been several protests against them in different parts of the country, while there has been chaos at the international airport in national capital Kabul, as people are desperate to flee the country to escape Taliban rule.

Mr Guterres emphasised that it is “important that a guarantee of effective safety remains at the [Kabul international] airport.”

“I don’t think the UN is asking, and I don’t think we have the capacity to run the airport,” he said, adding that the UN was willing to “cooperate with all the parties if our presence is considered useful.”

The UN chief said the Taliban’s desire for international legitimacy can be leveraged to push them to continue allowing evacuations from Kabul and to “prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorism.”

Ireland’s UN ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason pointed out that the Taliban has not followed through on its claims and assurances to the media. “We’ve all heard the purported assurances from the Taliban, that the rights of women and girls will be respected. What we hear from women on the ground does not bear this out,” Ms Nason said.

“This is linked very much to the question of the legitimacy of any government,” she added.

The heads of at least 18 UN agencies and international aid groups appealed on Thursday for more humanitarian funding for Afghanistan, reported Reuters.

They warned they were short of at least $800 million.

“This is not the time to abandon the Afghan people,” the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, which comprises the 18 agencies and aid groups, said in a statement.

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