Norway hosts Taliban for meetings on looming humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan

A Taliban delegation has arrived in Norway for talks with the Norwegian government and several allied countries on mitigating a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, as well as meetings with civil society activists and human rights defenders in the country .

The Norwegian Foreign Ministry said on Friday that it had invited representatives of the Taliban to Oslo from Sunday to Tuesday.

“These meetings do not represent legitimization or recognition of the Taliban. But we need to talk to the country’s de facto authorities,” Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said in a statement.

“We cannot let the political situation lead to an even worse humanitarian disaster.”

Huitfeldt also said economic and political conditions in Afghanistan have created a “large-scale humanitarian catastrophe for millions of people” facing starvation.

Governments around the world have grappled with how to stem a growing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan without formally recognizing the Taliban, who seized power on August 15, 2021, as foreign forces withdrew.

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The head of the United Nations World Food Program warned earlier this month that Afghanistan faced a “tsunami of hunger” as the country teetered on the brink of economic ruin.

The organization said 22.8 million people are facing acute food shortages, of which 8.7 million are close to starvation.

Mary-Ellen McGroarty urged the international community to put humanitarian necessity above political discussions and avert disaster by ensuring that billions in aid continue to reach the country.

Women’s and girls’ rights likely to be on the agenda

The rights of women and girls in Afghanistan are likely to feature prominently in the talks, along with the West’s recurring demand for the Taliban administration to share power with Afghanistan’s ethnic and religious minority groups.

The trip comes as the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan on Saturday called on the Taliban to find two women’s rights activists – Tamana Zaryab Paryani and Parawana Ibrahimkhel – who disappeared from Kabul on Wednesday.

“We urge the Taliban to provide information on their whereabouts and protect the rights of all Afghans,” UNAMA said in a tweet on Saturday. The Taliban have denied any involvement in their disappearance.

An eyewitness said at least 10 armed people claiming to be Taliban intelligence personnel broke into an apartment in Kabul on Wednesday and arrested Tamana Zaryab Paryani and her three sisters.

The women’s rights activist posted a video on social media shortly before their abduction, showing them scared, breathless and screaming for help. She said the Taliban were knocking on her door.

Paryani was among about 25 women who took part in an anti-Taliban protest last weekend against the compulsory Islamic headscarf, or hijab, for women.

The EU re-establishes its physical presence in Afghanistan

The European Union said Friday it was restoring a physical presence in Afghanistan for humanitarian purposes, but stressed it did not officially recognize the Taliban-led administration.

It was the first such announcement by a Western power since the 27 EU countries and numerous governments withdrew personnel and diplomats from Afghanistan when Kabul fell to the Taliban.

A Taliban Foreign Ministry spokesperson earlier said in a Tweet that its officials had reached an agreement with the EU, which had “officially opened its embassy with a permanent presence in Kabul and practically started operations”.

The EU spokesman did not say the mission had officially reopened.

“Our minimal presence in Kabul should in no way be taken as recognition. This has also been clearly communicated to the de facto authorities,” he said.

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