Taliban delegation meets Western diplomats in Oslo as part of new diplomatic efforts to seek humanitarian assistance, intl recognition
Published: Jan 25, 2022 12:12 AM
Taliban representative Anas Haqqani sits ahead of a meeting, in Oslo, Norway on  Jan 24, 2022. Photo:VCG

Taliban representative Anas Haqqani sits ahead of a meeting, in Oslo, Norway on Jan 24, 2022. Photo:VCG

The Taliban delegation headed by the Afghan interim government's acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi started its first visit to Europe since the Taliban took over Kabul in mid-August last year and met with Western diplomats in Oslo on Monday, a move that has been seen by some observers as the Taliban's new diplomatic efforts to seek humanitarian assistance and international recognition. 

Starting Monday, Taliban representatives will meet with delegations from Western nations and will be certain to press their demand that nearly $10 billion frozen by the US and other Western countries be released as Afghanistan faces a precarious humanitarian situation, the Associated Press reported. 

Thomas West, the US special representative for Afghanistan, tweeted on Sunday: "As we seek to address humanitarian crisis together with allies, partners, and relief orgs, we will continue clear-eyed diplomacy with the Taliban regarding our concerns and our abiding interest in a stable, rights-respecting and inclusive Afghanistan."

The visit can be seen as the new efforts being made by the Taliban government in extending its diplomacy and reaching out to the international community, as both sides have been adjusting their stances and measures in accordance with the status quo, Zhu Yongbiao, Director of the Center for Afghanistan Studies at Lanzhou University, told the Global Times on Monday.

"Although the Taliban government has made some promises, they haven't fully met the expectations of the intentional community," Zhu said. 

One of the major goals of the delegation is to ask the US-led West to lift the sanctions on Afghanistan, with Norway and other European countries expected to play the role of delivering this message to the US, and also to help Afghanistan tackle its humanitarian issues, Zhu said. 

The US has frozen nearly $9.5 billion in assets belonging to the Afghan central bank and stopped shipments of cash to the nation. The Taliban have called on the US to unfreeze the assets to help overcome the country's current humanitarian crisis, media reported. 

Some 23 million people in Afghanistan are in desperate need of food, the $20 billion economy could shrink by $4 billion or more and 97 percent of its 38 million population are at risk of sinking into poverty, Abdallah Al Dardari, the resident representative for the United Nations Development Program, was cited by CNBC as saying in November 2021. 

Aside from humanitarian issues, by having talks with Western diplomats, some analysts noted that the Taliban is also seeking international recognition. 

Holding talks and working on concrete issues does not mean the Western countries recognize the Taliban government, so this meeting in Oslo is unlikely to be an official occasion for the Taliban delegation to gain official recognition from the international community, but is an important step, Zhu said. 

Major divergences between the Taliban government and some Western countries include the definition of an inclusive government and the protection of women's rights. Although the Western world has seen the current government become much more moderate compared to the 1990s, they believe the Taliban government has much to do to meet its expectations. 

Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt was cited by France 24 as saying that the talks with the Taliban delegation would "not represent a legitimization or recognition of the Taliban."

No foreign government has yet recognized the Taliban, but many countries have interactions with the interim Afghan Taliban government. 

Some Western media reported recently that the Afghan Taliban are seeking the Chinese government's recognition. In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a press conference on January 18 that the interim government has made active diplomatic interactions and many countries have had pragmatic dialogues with it. 

"We hold that the international community should support the Afghan people in seeking a development path in keeping with their national realities and realizing lasting stability and development on the basis of respecting the country's sovereign independence and territorial integrity," Zhao said.

"At the same time, we hope the Afghan side will respond further to the expectations of the international community, establish an open and inclusive political architecture, adopt moderate and prudent domestic and foreign policies, firmly combat all sorts of terrorist forces, live on friendly terms with other countries, especially its neighbors, and integrate into the international family at an early date," said Zhao.