EU must talk to Taliban since they ‘won the war,’ says bloc’s foreign policy chief

‘ We have to talk with them for everything – even to try to protect women and girls’

Adam Forrest
Tuesday 17 August 2021 19:41
Taliban spokesperson says women's rights to be respected within Islamic law

The EU must talk to the Taliban since they have “won the war” in Afghanistan, the bloc’s foreign policy chief has said.

Josep Borrell said Brussels had decided it was necessary to engage with the country’s new ruling power after an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers to discuss the crisis.

“We have to get in touch with authorities in Kabul. The Taliban have won the war and we have to talk to them,” said Mr Borrell at a news conference on Tuesday.

But the foreign policy chief insisted that the EU will only cooperate with the Taliban if it respects women’s rights and prevents the use of Afghanistan’s territory by terrorist groups.

“I haven’t said that we are going to recognise the Taliban,” he said. “I just said that we have to talk with them for everything – even to try to protect women and girls. Even for that, you have to get in touch with them.”

Mr Borrell added: “We will put conditions for continual support, and we are going to use our leverage ... to make the human rights to be respected. I know that when I’m saying that it looks a little bit wishful thinking. But we will use all our leverage.”

The Taliban claimed animosities with foreign powers were over at a press conference in Kabul on Tuesday afternoon. The militant group’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told journalists: “We do not have any grudges against anybody. We have pardoned … all those who have fought against us.”

The spokesman also claimed that women’s rights were “very important” and would be respected “within the framework of Sharia”.

Mr Mujahid added: “Our sisters ... have the same rights, will be able to benefit from their rights. The international community – if they have concerns – we would like to assure them that there is not going to be any discrimination against women, but of course within the frameworks that we have.”

Although Germany has decide to temporarily halt development aid to Afghanistan, the EU will continue to provide assistance to the Afghan people to address the “worsening humanitarian situation”, Mr Borrell announced.

UK foreign minister Dominic Raab suggested on Tuesday that aid spending to Afghanistan could be increased by 10 per cent, despite millions already being removed from the budget due to government cuts.

Mr Borrell called on the Taliban to allow safe and unhindered access for humanitarian assistance to Afghan women, men and children in need, including internal refugees.

“The EU calls on the Taliban to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law in all circumstances. The EU will also support Afghanistan’s neighbours in coping with negative spillovers, which are to be expected from an increasing flow of refugees and migrants,” he added.

Mr Borrell also said that while the fight against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan succeeded, the process of nation-building failed, despite the enormous amount of resources directed to the country.

The foreign policy chief said the immediate priority was to evacuate remaining EU staff, their interpreters and others working with the bloc’s officials in Kabul.

“The first objective, the priority, is to ensure the evacuation in the best conditions of security of the European nationals still present in the country, and also of the Afghan citizens who worked with us for more than 20 years, if they want to leave the country,” he said.

Meanwhile, Russia’s ambassador to Afghanistan praised the Taliban’s conduct, saying that the group – still designated a terrorist organisation in Russia – made Kabul “better” than it had been under the Afghan government of Ashraf Ghani.

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