Tuesday, March 28

Taliban Say Negotiations With West Will Change “War Atmosphere”

Talks with Western diplomats next week will help change “the atmosphere of war” that has prevailed in Afghanistan since the US coalition intervened 20 years ago, a spokesman for the Islamist government said on Saturday.

“The Islamic Emirate [nombre dado por los talibanes a su régimen] has taken steps to meet the demands of the Western world and we hope to strengthen our diplomatic relations with all countries, including European countries and the West in general,” Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP.

The Taliban, in power since August after their rapid conquest of the country, want to “change the atmosphere of war (…) for a peaceful situation,” he added.

Although no country has so far recognized the Taliban government, talks between Afghanistan’s new leaders and Western diplomats will begin in Oslo, Norway, on Sunday.

A Taliban delegation is scheduled to meet with Norwegian authorities and with representatives of other allied countries, such as the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and the European Union.

The talks will focus on respect for human rights, especially those of women, the condition for the return of international aid that financed 80% of the budget of Afghanistan, plunged into a deep humanitarian crisis.

The talks, which will last until Tuesday, “do not constitute a legitimization or recognition of the Taliban,” Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt insisted on Friday.

“But we have to talk to the authorities that de facto run the country. We cannot let the political situation lead to an even bigger humanitarian disaster,” he said.

Since August, international aid has come to a sudden halt and the United States has also frozen $9.5 billion in Afghan central bank assets.

Unemployment has skyrocketed and civil servants’ salaries have gone unpaid for months in a country already ravaged by a severe drought.

According to the UN, famine already threatens 23 million Afghans, 55% of the population.