Afghanistan

Norway says will put ‘tangible demands’ on Taliban during talks

Written by The Frontier Post

OSLO (AFP): Norway said it will put “tangible demands” on the Taliban during talks in Oslo on Tuesday, the last day of the hardline Islamists’ controversial first visit to Europe since returning to power in Afghanistan.

A Taliban delegation led by Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi has been in Norway since Saturday for talks focused on humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.

The country’s humanitarian situation has rapidly deteriorated since the Taliban returned to power in August, when international aid came to a sudden halt and worsened the plight of millions of people suffering from hunger after several severe droughts.

The fundamentalists met with members of Afghan civil society on Sunday, followed by Western diplomats on Monday.

They were to conclude their visit Tuesday with meetings with a Norwegian political official and non-government organisations.

“This is not the beginning of an … open-ended process”, said state secretary Henrik Thune, who was to meet the delegation on Tuesday morning.

“We are going to place tangible demands that we can follow up on and see if they have been met”, he told Norwegian news agency NTB.

According to NTB, the demands will include the possibility of providing humanitarian aid directly to the Afghan people, as well as respect of human rights — in particular those of women and minorities, such as access to education and health services, the right to work, and freedom of movement.

MISSING WOMEN ACTIVISTS

Norway is also expected to raise the plight of two women activists who went missing in Kabul last week after taking part in a demonstration. The Taliban have denied responsibility.

The Taliban were toppled in 2001 but stormed back to power in August as US-led forces began their withdrawal.

The fundamentalists view the talks — being held behind closed-doors in a hotel near Oslo — as a step toward international recognition and the unblocking of financial aid.

“Norway providing us this opportunity is an achievement in itself because we shared the stage with the world,” Foreign Minister Muttaqi said Monday on the sidelines of talks with representatives of the United States, France, Germany, Britain, Italy, the European Union and Norway.

While Norway has insisted the talks do “not represent a legitimisation or recognition of the Taliban”, its decision to host a delegation has been hotly criticised by some experts and members of the Afghan diaspora.

No country has yet to recognise the fundamentalist regime.

Some 55 percent of the Afghan population is suffering from hunger, according to the United Nations. But the international community is waiting to see how the Taliban intend to govern before unblocking any aid.

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