EU to push human rights agenda in talks with Taliban

The European Union has no option but to talk to Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers, and Brussels will try to coordinate with member governments to organise a diplomatic presence in Kabul, the top EU diplomat said yesterday.

The Afghan crisis is not over,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told the European Parliament in Strasbourg. “To have any chance of influencing events, we have no other option but to engage with the Taliban.”

EU foreign ministers have set conditions for re-establishing humanitarian aid and diplomatic ties with the Taliban, including respect for human rights, particularly women’s rights.

“Maybe it’s a pure oxymoron to talk about human rights, but this is what we have to ask them,” Mr Borrell said.

He told EU lawmakers that the bloc should be prepared to see Afghans trying to reach Europe if the Taliban allow people to leave.

The European Commission plans to secure funding from EU governments and the common budget of €300m both this year and next to pave the way for the resettlement of around 30,000 Afghans.

Yesterday, the foreign minister in Afghanistan’s new Taliban-run cabinet said the government remains committed to its promises not to allow militants to use its territory to attack others.

In his first press conference since the Taliban formed an interim government a week ago, Molavi Amir Khan Muttaqi would not give a time frame for how long the government would be in place or whether it would eventually be opened up to other factions, minorities or women.

When asked about the possibility of elections, Mr Muttaqi demanded other countries not interfere in Afghanistan’s internal issues.

Under a deal reached last year with the United States, the Taliban promised to break ties with al-Qa’ida and other militant groups and ensure they do not threaten other countries from its territory.

Asked about the deal, Mr Muttaqi replied: “We will not allow anyone or any groups to use our soil against any other countries.” It is the first time a member of the government has confirmed its commitment to the promise.

Meanwhile, three former US presidents – Republican George W Bush and Democrats Bill Clinton and Barack Obama – have banded together behind a new group aimed at supporting refugees from Afghanistan settling in the United States following the recent American withdrawal. The group is called Welcome.US.

The coalition said it will help the tens of thousands of Afghans fleeing their country as part of the Biden administration’s evacuation to resettle in the United States by mobilising support and volunteers.

Many of the refugees would have been at risk had they remained in Afghanistan under the Taliban after their work with US and allied troops.

“Thousands of Afghans stood with us on the front lines to push for a safer world, and now they need our help. We are proud to support Welcome.US and the work to help Afghan families get settled and build new lives,” former President Bush and his wife Laura said in the statement.

“We stand ready to show our new Afghan neighbours and the rest of the world how a welcoming and generous spirit forms the backbone of what makes our country so great.”

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