Talks between the Taliban, the West and Afghan civil society begin in Norway

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Representatives of the Taliban arrive in Gardermoen, Norway on Saturday January 22, 2022 for talks with the Norwegian government and several allied countries, as well as meetings with civil society activists and human rights defenders from Afghanistan. Photo: Terje Bendiksby/ NTB scanpix via AP

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Representatives of the Taliban arrive in Gardermoen, Norway on Saturday January 22, 2022 for talks with the Norwegian government and several allied countries, as well as meetings with civil society activists and human rights defenders from Afghanistan. Photo: Terje Bendiksby/ NTB scanpix via AP

A Taliban delegation led by acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi began three days of talks in Oslo on Sunday with Western government officials and Afghan civil society representatives amid a deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan.

The closed-door meetings are taking place in a hotel in the snow-capped mountains above the Norwegian capital. On the first day, Taliban representatives will meet with women’s rights activists and human rights defenders from Afghanistan and the Afghan diaspora.

Ahead of the talks, the Taliban Deputy Minister of Culture and Information tweeted a voicemail which he said was from Muttaqi, expressing hope for a “good journey full of achievements” and thanking Norway, a country that he hopes to become “a gateway for a positive relationship with Europe.”

It is the first time since the Taliban took control of the country in August that their representatives have held official meetings in Europe. Previously, they visited Russia, Iran, Qatar, Pakistan, China and Turkmenistan.

During the talks, Muttaqi is certain to press the Taliban’s demand that nearly $10 billion frozen by the United States and other Western countries be released as Afghanistan faces a dire humanitarian situation.

The UN managed to provide cash and allowed the new administration to pay for imports, including electricity, but warned that as many as a million Afghan children were at risk of starvation and most of the country’s 38 million people lived below the poverty line.

The Norwegian Foreign Ministry said the Taliban delegation would also meet with Afghans in Norway, including “women leaders, journalists and people who work on, among other things, human rights and humanitarian issues, economic, social and political”.

“Norway continues to engage with the Taliban to promote human rights, women’s participation in society and strengthen humanitarian and economic efforts in Afghanistan to support the Afghan people,” the foreign ministry said in a statement. communicated.

A US delegation, led by Special Representative for Afghanistan Tom West, plans to discuss “the formation of a representative political system; responses to urgent humanitarian and economic crises; security and counter-terrorism issues; and human rights, especially the education of girls and women,” according to a statement released by the US State Department.

On Friday, Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt stressed that the visit was “not a legitimization or recognition of the Taliban. But we have to talk to those who, in practice, govern the country today”.

“We are extremely concerned about the gravity of the situation in Afghanistan,” Huitfeldt said, noting that economic and political conditions have created “a large-scale humanitarian disaster for millions of people” facing starvation in the country.

The Scandinavian country, home to the Nobel Peace Prize, is no stranger to sensitive diplomacy and has in the past been involved in peace efforts in a number of countries, including Mozambique, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Colombia, the Philippines, Israel and the Palestinian Territories. , Syria, Myanmar, Somalia, Sri Lanka and South Sudan.

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