Friday, June 21, 2024

Taliban official to meet Pakistan, China FMs

A United Nations Security Council committee has agreed to allow the Taliban’s interim foreign minister, Mawlawi Amir Khan Muttaqi, to travel to Pakistan from Afghanistan to meet with Pakistani and Chinese top diplomats, according to reports.

The Reuters news agency reported on Monday that Pakistan’s UN mission requested an exemption for Muttaqi to travel between May 6 and 9 “for a meeting with the foreign ministers of Pakistan and China”.

Muttaqi has long been subjected to a travel ban, asset freeze and arms embargo under UN Security Council sanctions. The UN Security Council committee agreed to allow Muttaqi to travel to Uzbekistan last month for a meeting of the foreign ministers of neighbouring countries of Afghanistan to discuss urgent peace, security, and stability matters.

Afghanistan’s TOLOnews outlet said earlier on Monday that media in Pakistan were reporting on the upcoming visit and that Muttaqi would meet with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari. Afghanistan’s foreign ministry had not yet commented on the reported trip, according to TOLOnews.

News of the Taliban official’s trip comes as representatives of nearly two dozen countries and international institutions met on Monday in Qatar with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for talks on Afghanistan, focusing particularly on the plight of women and girls under the Taliban administration.

Taliban authorities were not invited to attend the closed-door two-day meeting in Doha, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said.

The meeting aims “to achieve a common understanding within the international community on how to engage with the Taliban”, stated Dujarric, who noted that recognition of Taliban rule “is not up for discussion”. Key discussion topics include women’s and girls’ rights, inclusive governance, countering terrorism and drug trafficking, he added.

Since seizing power in August 2021, Taliban authorities have imposed rules that the UN has labelled “gender-based apartheid”.

“Any meeting about Afghanistan without the participation of the Afghan government is ineffective and counterproductive,” Abdul Qahar Balkhi, the Taliban foreign ministry spokesperson, told Al Jazeera.

Women have been barred from almost all secondary education and universities, and prevented from working in most government jobs. Last month, Taliban authorities extended the ban to working with UN agencies.

The Taliban administration says the ban is an “internal issue” that should not influence foreign dealings.

But, in response, the UN has ordered a review of its critical relief operation in Afghanistan, where many in the 38-million-strong population rely on food aid. The review is due to be completed on Friday. The UN has announced it faces an “appalling choice” over whether to maintain its relief efforts in Afghanistan.

Guterres said on social media before leaving for Doha that “reversing all measures that restrict women’s rights to work is key to reaching the millions of people in Afghanistan that require humanitarian assistance”.

Though not invited to the talks, the head of the Taliban representative office in Doha, Sohail Shaheen, stated he had met with delegation members from the United Kingdom and China. He added the UN meeting and “the importance of engagement” were among topics raised.

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