Foreign secretary Dominic Raab has called for the creation of an “international coalition”, including regional states as well as Western powers, to exert “maximum moderating influence” on the Taliban government in Afghanistan.
Speaking during a visit to Gulf emirate Qatar, Mr Raab said that the UK will be “pragmatic and realistic” in its approach to the Taliban and sees scope for “engagement and dialogue” with the militant group, but would not be recognising the new regime in Kabul.
Qatar is understood to have used its links with the Taliban leadership to exert pressure for the group to co-operate with the evacuation of international forces from Kabul’s airport following the fall of the Afghan capital.
Amid reports that the airport is already reopening for domestic travel, Qatari foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said he was hopeful of “good news” within the next few days on the restoration of international flights, which could hold the key to the removal of thousands of Afghans left behind in last week’s evacuation.
Mr Raab said he felt “a responsibility” to those still waiting to leave for the UK either via the airport or by crossing the borders into neighbouring countries.
“We need to adjust to the new reality and our immediate priority is to secure the safe passage of those remaining British nationals, but also the Afghans who worked for the United Kingdom, and indeed others who may be at most risk,” said the foreign secretary.
“We're working closely on that and looking at the practicalities of how that can work. The UK sent a rapid deployment team to this region, because we want to make sure working with third countries that we can process, both the nationals but also the Afghan workers.”
On his first trip to the region since the fall of Kabul on 15 August, Mr Raab made clear he is hoping to forge a common front with Afghanistan’s neighbours on dealing with the Taliban and holding them to account over commitments to inclusive government, human rights and respect for women and girls.
“I think it'll be important to build an international coalition, and our Qatari friends are clearly an influential lynchpin player in that,” he said. “We are working with our G7 presidency, our Nato membership, we secured with the French, the Germans and the other members of the Security Council a resolution which provided a good framework that all countries should be able to agree on as a way to move forward.
“Now we need to get wider buy-in from the regional countries involved.
“I think above all we need to put a grouping together that can exert maximum moderating influence on what the Taliban does next. We'll certainly keep working with all of those partners... to make sure that we can preserve the gains that have been made in Afghanistan over the last 20 years and continue to support the Afghan people.”
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