BRUSSELS: This weekend the EU held a two-day dialogue in Doha with members of the Taliban declared interim Afghan government (‘the Afghan delegation’). This dialogue does not imply recognition by the EU of the interim government but is part of EU’s operational engagement, in the interest of the EU and the Afghan people.
The two sides expressed grave concern about the worsening humanitarian situation in Afghanistan as winter is arriving. The EU delegation stated that the EU intends to continue providing humanitarian assistance to Afghan women, men and children in need, according to the humanitarian principles of humanity, independence, impartiality and neutrality to ensure access to those in need. Both sides underlined the necessity of humanitarian access and of men and women participating in assessing the needs for, and the delivery of, humanitarian assistance to ensure equal access for women, men and children. The EU delegation welcomed the confirmation by the Afghan delegation that humanitarian and ‘humanitarian+’ assistance will not be subject to taxation. The Afghan delegation recalled its commitment to resume the payment of salaries to all civil servants, who in many cases have not received their salary since May.
The Afghan delegation recalled its commitment to the rule of law and good governance. The EU delegation underlined the importance of democracy and called for any possible constitutional reform to be implemented through a transparent and participatory process. It called on the interim government to take swift, meaningful and concrete steps towards an inclusive government that represents the richness of Afghan society in terms of ethnic, political and religious affiliation and with both women and men in senior positions, and which should pave the way for national reconciliation.
Both sides expressed their commitment to the territorial integrity of a sovereign Afghanistan, at peace with itself and with its neighbours, interacting with the international community based on national sovereignty and mutual respect and recognition of all its national and international responsibilities. The Afghan delegation confirmed in the meeting its commitment to guaranteeing and facilitating the safe passage of foreign nationals and Afghans who wish to leave the country. In this regard, both sides underlined the fundamental importance of keeping Afghan airports open, and the Afghan delegation requested assistance for maintaining operations of airports.
The Afghan delegation reaffirmed its commitment to the general amnesty decreed upon assuming power and agreed with the need to amplify this message, and its enforcement, inside Afghanistan. While EU development assistance to Afghanistan remains suspended, the EU delegation expressed its willingness to consider providing substantial financial assistance for the direct benefit of the Afghan people, in addition to humanitarian assistance. Such assistance (‘humanitarian+’), channelled exclusively through international organisations and NGOs and using the best possible delivery mechanisms, would help to ensure essential services (e.g. education and health) and sustain livelihoods of the population, underpinning the fulfilment of relevant benchmarks defined in the Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions of 21 September 2021. This includes providing equal access to education at all levels for girls and boys with school curricula meeting international standards, and protecting the rights of persons belonging to minorities.
In the meeting, the Afghan delegation confirmed its commitment to upholding and respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the rights of women, children, and persons belonging to minorities as well as freedom of speech and of the media, in line with Islamic principles. The EU delegation welcomed the intention of the Afghan delegation to ensure equal access to education for girls and boys at all levels, and the right for women to work in different sectors and contribute to the economy and the development of Afghanistan.
In response to the EU delegation’s request for Afghanistan to take determined action to fight all forms of terrorism, the Afghan delegation reaffirmed its commitment not to allow the territory of Afghanistan to serve as a base for hosting and financing of any person or group that threatens the security of others, and to take firm action also against groups inside the country trying to carry out such acts and to hold perpetrators and organisers of such attacks accountable.
The Afghan delegation welcomed the presence of diplomatic missions in Afghanistan and stressed that they remain committed to respecting the rights and privileges granted to such missions and their staff under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, as well as the security of local staff, and that it would welcome a return of EU staff to Afghanistan. The EU delegation underlined that the possibility of establishing a minimal presence on the ground in Kabul, which would not entail recognition, will directly depend on the security situation, as well as on effective decisions by the de facto authorities to allow the EU to ensure adequate protection of its staff and premises.
Both sides expressed a willingness to continue their dialogue in Doha while the EU delegation recalled that the five benchmarks agreed by EU Foreign Ministers in the Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions of 21 September 2021 will serve as guiding principles for future engagement. Both sides thanked the State of Qatar, and in particular Dr Mutlaq al-Qahtani, for the generous support as host for the meeting.
The EU delegation was led by the EU Special Envoy for Afghanistan, Tomas Niklasson, together with a delegation from the European Commission and the EEAS, represented by Raffaella Iodice, Head of Unit for Asia, Latin America, Caribbean and the Pacific, Directorate General for European Civilian Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), Sarah Rinaldi, Head of Unit for the Middle East and Central Asia, Directorate General for International Partnerships, Davinia Wood, Head of Unit for International Affairs, Directorate General for Migration and Home Affairs, Jennie Gren, Political advisor to the EU Special Envoy, and Ferdinand Jenrich, Head of Political Section at the EU Delegation to Afghanistan.
The Afghan delegation was led by acting Foreign Minister Maulvi Amir Khan Motaqi and included Sheikh Noorullah Munir, acting Minister of Education, Dr Qalandar Ibaad, acting Minister of Public Health, Maulvi Mohammad Idris, the acting Governor of the Central Bank as well as officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Interior, and the General Directorate of Intelligence.