Tag Archives: Taliban

Gymnich on Afghanistan

Brussels 03.09.2021 Press statement by High Representative Josep Borrell at the informal meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministers (Gymnich) on Afghanistan:
“As I said at the beginning, the discussion today was going to be focused on Afghanistan. It is the most urgent priority. This is a polyhedric (many-sided, multifaceted) issue, we have to look at the situation in Afghanistan under the new circumstances: the lessons learnt, the state-building management, the relations with the United States. All of that.

“But today the Ministers had immediately driven their efforts on the discussion on the most pressing issue of this very much complex agenda. We will have time to go deeper on these other subjects not finished today, but today the Ministers have concentrated on how to deal with the new situation, how to deal with the new government in Afghanistan under the Taliban’s rule.

“I am going to try to summarise the main elements of the discussion with Foreign Ministers about this specific approach. This is my take of the debate, and Minister [of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia] Anže [Logar] will complement also. But as you know very well, this is an informal meeting, no decisions, no conclusions of the Council, [these are] conclusions of the High Representative taking stock of the general feeling of the debate among the Ministers.

“What is clear is that the future of Afghanistan remains a key issue for us. It affects us, it affects the region, international stability and it has a direct impact on European security. At the same time, the Ministers strongly insisted on the idea that we remain committed to supporting the Afghan population.

“In order to support the Afghan population, we will have to engage with the new government in Afghanistan, which does not mean recognition, it is an operational engagement. And this operational engagement will increase depending on the behaviour of this government. In order to measure the behaviour, we need benchmarks and the following are the benchmarks that we discussed as the basis for the European Union engagement with Afghan power-holders following the Taliban takeover.

“We will judge the behaviour and engage according to commitment of the Afghan government for Afghanistan not to serve as a basis for the export of terrorism to other countries.

Second, the respect for human rights, in particular women rights, the rule of law and freedom of the media.

“The third benchmark will be the establishment of an inclusive and representative transitional government through negotiations among political forces in Afghanistan.

“The fourth will be the free access for humanitarian aid, respecting our procedures and conditions for its delivery. We will increase humanitarian aid, but we will judge them according with the access that they provide to this help according to our procedures and conditions.

“The last benchmark will be the fulfilment of the Taliban commitment about the departure of foreign nationals and Afghans at risk, who wish to leave the country, in line with what was already decided by United Nations Security Resolution 2593.

“It is an engagement with the Taliban themselves, the international community is pressing for it. We will judge their behaviour according to these five benchmarks. Some will say ‘oh, but the Taliban will not fulfil them’. Let us see. Our engagement will depend on the fulfilment of these conditions.

“This is one very important aspect of our discussion today: how do we engage with the new power in Afghanistan?

“The second one is how do we continue supporting the people that we wanted to evacuate and were unable to do that due to the end of the air lifting and on the last days of August. People at risk, people who were working with us, people who were supporting the process of democratisation of Afghanistan and they are still there. We know them. They have to be evacuated.

“On that, the Foreign Affairs Ministers took good notice of what the Council of the Home Affairs Ministers decided on the 31st of August. And individual Member States will decide, on a voluntary basis, on the persons at risk that they are willing to receive under their protection, in accordance – as I said – with the statement of the situation adopted by the Council the past 31st of August.

“The benchmark of the new power in Afghanistan allowing movement of people is something different from the evacuation of national personnel from Afghanistan under the protection of Member States, which will be done on an individual and voluntary basis.

“In order to implement this evacuation, and in order to assess the implementation of the above benchmarks, we have decided to work in a coordinated manner. To coordinate our contacts with the Taliban, including through a joint European Union’s presence in Kabul, coordinated by the European External Action Service – if the security conditions are met.

“If you want to do it in a coordinated way, to evacuate the people who we are willing to accept, each Member State, we need a strong engagement, a strong contact, a close presence. And this will be done in a coordinated manner through a joint European Union’s presence in Kabul, coordinated by the European External Action Service – if the security conditions are met.

“Another agreement is on the need to coordinate the engagement of the regional and relevant international partners. And for that, the Ministers considered appropriate that under the auspices of the European External Action Service, the European Union will initiate a regional political platform of cooperation with Afghanistan’s neighbours.

“This will be built on the already existing broad relations of the European Union and Member States with these countries and this political platform will consider, among other issues, the management of population flows from Afghanistan; the prevention of the spread of terrorism; the fight against organised crime, including drug trafficking and human being smuggling.

“This will represent a strong diplomatic effort of all Member States going together, coordinated by the European External Action Service, in order to create this regional political platform with Afghanistan’s neighbours, which is very much needed if we want to stabilise the whole region.

“Certainly, we will continue working with specialised agencies in addressing the challenges in Afghanistan. We welcome the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2593. We had the opportunity to listen the report of the Head of the United Nations Agency for Refugees in Afghanistan, who explained us the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, which is dire.

“We will coordinate strongly with the United States, as well as with other partners and regional organisations in the framework of the G7 and the G20.

“So, engagement with the Taliban, benchmark to measure how this engagement is going on, coordinated effort in order to continue the evacuation of our nationals and Afghan people under our protection on an individual basis among Member States, but coordinated among all of us to make this evacuation possible, which will require certainly engagement with the Afghanistan power [holders], and creation of a regional political platform together with the neighbours of Afghanistan.

“It has been an intense discussion and I thank [for] the help that you, Anže, provided to me in order to get these conclusions. I am sure that you will like to add some considerations about it”.

Afghanistan: EU on migration

Brussels 31.08.2021 Council of the EU Statements and remarks 31 August 2021 18:10:
Statement on the situation in Afghanistan (Image above: illustration, Europa building, Brussels).

“The EU Ministers of Home Affairs met today for an extraordinary Council meeting to discuss developments in Afghanistan, more specifically in relation to potential implications in the areas of international protection, migration and security. The seriousness of the evolving situation requires a determined and concerted response to its many dimensions by the EU and the international community.

“The evacuation of our citizens and to the extent possible of Afghan nationals who have cooperated with the EU and its Member States and their families, has been conducted as a matter of priority and will be continued. In this regard, intensive work is underway to identify targeted solutions for the remaining specific cases of persons at risk in Afghanistan.
As an immediate priority, the EU will continue to coordinate with international partners, in particular the UN and its agencies, on the stabilisation of the region and to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches the vulnerable populations, in particular women and children, in Afghanistan and in neighbouring countries. To this end, the EU and its Member States will step up financial support to relevant international organisations.
“The EU will engage and strengthen its support to third countries, in particular the neighbouring and transit countries, hosting large numbers of migrants and refugees, to reinforce their capacities to provide protection, dignified and safe reception conditions and sustainable livelihood for refugees and host communities. The EU will also cooperate with those countries to prevent illegal migration from the region, reinforce border management capacity and prevent smuggling of migrants and trafficking in human beings. To this effect, the mandates of EU agencies should be used to their full extent. In particular, the European Asylum Support Office should step up its external operations for asylum capacity building. Furthermore, as part of global efforts, support could be provided in the form of resettlement on a voluntary basis, prioritising vulnerable persons, such as women and children.

“The Action Plan on Afghanistan should be prioritised and revised in light of this statement and changed circumstances to make it more operational. A Team Europe approach is needed to work with Afghanistan’s neighbours to address the impact of displacement in the region. The Council urges the Commission to assess all options for the necessary financial assistance under the Multiannual Financial Framework, in particular NDICI and asylum, migration and border management instruments.

“Based on lessons learned, the EU and its Member States stand determined to act jointly to prevent the recurrence of uncontrolled large-scale illegal migration movements faced in the past, by preparing a coordinated and orderly response. Incentives to illegal migration should be avoided. The EU should also strengthen the support to the countries in Afghanistan’s immediate neighbourhood to ensure that those in need receive adequate protection primarily in the region. The need for unified and coordinated external but also internal communication is key. Targeted information campaigns should be launched to combat the narratives used by smugglers, including in the on-line environment, which encourage people to embark on dangerous and illegal journeys towards Europe.

“The EU and its Member States will do their utmost to ensure that the situation in Afghanistan does not lead to new security threats for EU citizens. All efforts must be pursued to ensure that the Taliban regime ceases all ties and practices with international terrorism and that Afghanistan does not become once again a sanctuary for terrorists and organised crime groups. The EU will use all its available tools to closely monitor and respond to developments on the ground that might impact its security, in particular in the area of organised crime and terrorism, including its financing. Europol will provide an analysis of the criminal risks linked to the situation in Afghanistan. Exchange of information and intelligence, in line with national competences, also with third countries, and the sharing of regular threat assessments, are of utmost importance. The timely performance of security checks of persons being evacuated from Afghanistan remains crucial.
The EU and its Member States, with the support of Frontex, remain determined to effectively protect the EU external borders and prevent unauthorized entries, and assist the most affected Member States. Appropriate security checks should be carried out, including through the full use of relevant EU databases, as well as registration in Eurodac. Furthermore, as part of our comprehensive approach to external cooperation on migration, third-country national clauses in the readmission agreements between the EU and certain transit countries should be used where the legal requirements are met.
The Council recognizes the need to support and provide adequate protection to those in need, in line with EU law and our international obligations, and to bring closer Member States’ practices in the reception and processing of Afghan asylum seekers.

“The Council will closely follow the developments in the area of international protection, migration and security. It will respond to attempts to instrumentalise illegal migration for political purposes and other hybrid threats, including by developing new tools. The Council will also monitor closely the implementation of the actions mentioned above and ensure regular stocktaking in order to further improve the EU’s crisis management capacity, building upon the tools already developed. Coordination of all dimensions of this situation (humanitarian, development, international protection, migration, security, foreign policy) is crucial”.

Taliban assures free departures

Brussels 29.08.201 The following statement was released initially by the Governments of the United States of America, Albania, Australia, Belgium, Belize, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Canada, Central African Republic, Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, Eswatini, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Guyana, The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Haiti, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, North Macedonia, Norway, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Cyprus, Republic of Korea, Republic of Kosovo, Romania, Rwanda, Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, Spain, St. Kitts and Nevis, Sudan, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland , The Bahamas, The Gambia, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, Union of the Comoros, United Kingdom, Vanuatu, Yemen, and Zambia.

“We are all committed to ensuring that our citizens, nationals and residents, employees, Afghans who have worked with us and those who are at risk, can continue to travel freely to destinations outside Afghanistan”.

“We have received assurances from the Taliban that all foreign nationals and any Afghan citizen with travel authorization from our countries will be allowed to proceed in a safe and orderly manner to points of departure and travel outside the country”.

“We will continue issuing travel documentation to designated Afghans, and we have the clear expectation of and commitment from the Taliban that they can travel to our respective countries. We note the public statements of the Taliban confirming this understanding”.

Michel on access to Hamid Karzai airport

Brussels 24.08.2021 Remarks by President Charles Michel following the G7 leaders’ meeting on Afghanistan via videoconference: “We just participated in the virtual G7 leaders’ meeting on Afghanistan”.

“First, we tackled what remains our most pressing priority: the safe evacuation of the coalition’s citizens, Afghan staff, and their families.

“The EU and its member states spare no effort to evacuate EU citizens, and those who have partnered trustfully with us. We are concerned, about their ability to safely reach the Kabul airport. We call on the new Afghan authorities, to allow free passage to all foreign, and Afghan citizens, who wish to get to the airport.

“We have also raised this issue with our American friends and partners on two particular aspects: first, the need to secure the airport, as long as necessary, to complete the operations; and second, a fair and equitable access to the airport, for all nationals entitled to evacuation.

On humanitarian aid and migration, I will just make two remarks.

First, the EU will do its part, to support the safety and proper living conditions of Afghans, who flee their country. We will work with the countries in the region, especially Iran, Pakistan, and central Asia, to address the different needs. International protection will be needed for those facing persecution and for other vulnerable Afghans. And EU member states will contribute to this international effort.

Second point: let’s be clear, let’s not allow the creation of a new market for smugglers and human traffickers. We are determined to keep the migratory flows under control and the EU’s borders protected.

Today it is too early to decide what kind of relations we will develop with the new Afghan authorities. We call for an inclusive political settlement and if we want to remain a positive influence for the Afghan people, especially in supporting their basic needs, we will have to deal with the new authorities.

This will be subject to strict conditions, regarding the deeds and attitude of the new regime. Both in preserving the political, economic and social achievements for the Afghan citizens, and their human rights, notably of women, girls and minorities. And in terms of the international obligations of Afghanistan ¬– in particular, security, the fight against terrorism, and drug trafficking.

On security, the cooperation between NATO and other allies will be key. Sharing data among allies and partners, to prevent entry of foreign terrorist fighters will also play an important role.

Finally, on the geopolitical implications of these event: ending the military operation in Afghanistan is not the end of our commitment to promoting rule of law, democracy, and human rights in the world. On the contrary, we should be more determined than ever. This must be clear to actors who are trying to take advantage of the current situation. The EU will continue to firmly protect and promote its interests and values.

And to conclude: there will be more lessons, to draw from what happened in Afghanistan. These events show, that developing our strategic autonomy, while keeping our alliances as strong as ever, is of the utmost importance, for the future of Europe. In due time, I will propose a discussion on this question to my fellow leaders of the European Council.

EU doesn’t recognise Taliban

Brussels 21.08.2021 The European Union has not recognised the Taliban, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Saturday, August 21, nor is it holding political talks with the militants, a week after they seized control of Afghanistan. However during her visit to Spain the EU top executive expressed determination to support Afghan people. (Image above: archive)

Von der Leyen noted that despite the Taliban’s rhetoric, accepting inclusive approach, there have already been numerous reports of oppression targeting women, revenge killings and abductions.

“Not a single euro can go to a regime … that denies women and girls their full freedom and rights to education and careers,” she said.

“The situation is still very unclear and very unpredictable,” she added. “We will measure [the Taliban] above all by their deeds and their actions.”

Afghanistan: NATO continues evacuations

Brussels 20.08.2021 NATO Foreign Ministers met via teleconference on Friday (20 August 2021) to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. “What we have witnessed in recent days is a tragedy for the people of Afghanistan,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. He stressed that NATO’s top priority is the continuing evacuation of people from Allied and partner countries, and Afghans who have worked with NATO.
Statement by NATO Foreign Ministers on Afghanistan:
“We, the Foreign Ministers of NATO, met today to discuss the difficult situation in Afghanistan:

“We are united in our deep concern about the grave events in Afghanistan and call for an immediate end to the violence. We also express deep concerns about reports of serious human rights violations and abuses across Afghanistan. We affirm our commitment to the statement by the UN Security Council on 16 August, and we call for adherence to international norms and standards on human rights and international humanitarian law in all circumstances.

“Our immediate task now is to meet our commitments to continue the safe evacuation of our citizens, partner country nationals, and at-risk Afghans, in particular those who have assisted our efforts. We call on those in positions of authority in Afghanistan to respect and facilitate their safe and orderly departure, including through Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. As long as evacuation operations continue, we will maintain our close operational coordination through Allied military means at Hamid Karzai International Airport.

“The Afghan people deserve to live in safety, security and dignity, and to build on the important political, economic and social achievements they have made over the last twenty years. We stand by civil society actors who must be able to continue to safely play their meaningful role in Afghan society. We call on all parties in Afghanistan to work in good faith to establish an inclusive and representative government, including with the meaningful participation of women and minority groups. Under the current circumstances, NATO has suspended all support to the Afghan authorities. Any future Afghan government must adhere to Afghanistan’s international obligations; safeguard the human rights of all Afghans, particularly women, children, and minorities; uphold the rule of law; allow unhindered humanitarian access; and ensure that Afghanistan never again serves as a safe haven for terrorists.

“For the last twenty years, we have successfully denied terrorists a safe haven in Afghanistan from which to instigate attacks. We will not allow any terrorists to threaten us. We remain committed to fighting terrorism with determination, resolve, and in solidarity.

“We honour the service and sacrifice of all who have worked tirelessly over the last twenty years to realise a better future for Afghanistan. Together, we will fully reflect on our engagement in Afghanistan and draw the necessary lessons.

“We will continue to promote the stable, prosperous Afghanistan that the Afghan people deserve and address the critical questions facing Afghanistan and the region, in the immediate future and beyond, including through our cooperation with regional and international partners, such as the European Union and United Nations”.

Johansson: no returns to Afghans in EU

Brussels 19.08.2021 “The European Commission has been following the latest developments in Afghanistan with great and increasing concern” said the in the statement by Commissioner Johansson on the situation in Afghanistan at the extraordinary meeting of Interior Ministers.

“Today, I shared my concerns on the extremely serious and difficult situation with the EU Ministers of Interior, and my view on the way forward:

“Evacuation of EU staff and citizens and local staff who have been working with the EU and the Member States in Afghanistan is an immediate priority. Work on that is in progress in very difficult circumstances. I am grateful to the Member States for their commitment in granting visas to the staff and their families, and for offering seats in the departing planes. The Commission stands ready to coordinate all actions needed for them to find a new home.

The instability in Afghanistan is likely to lead to increased migratory pressure. We are therefore preparing for all scenarios. For this purpose, in line with the new Pact on Migration and Asylum, we convened yesterday an urgent Blueprint Network meeting during which we discussed with Member States and EU agencies about possible developments and the level of our preparedness. The Blueprint Network will continue meeting regularly on this topic to closely monitor the developments and take all preparatory steps needed.

We should not wait until people arrive at the external borders of the European Union. This is not a solution. We should prevent people from heading towards the European Union through unsafe, irregular and uncontrolled routes run by smugglers.

At the same time, we cannot abandon people in immediate danger in Afghanistan. Journalists, NGO staff and human rights advocates in Afghanistan are amongst those who are most at risk, women in particular.

“We have to support people displaced in Afghanistan through international organisations, such as the UNHCR and the IOM, give them the assistance needed and help them get back to their homes in Afghanistan when conditions on the ground allow. Some 550 000 Afghans have now been internally displaced in the country since the beginning of the year, in addition to 2.9 million already internally displaced at the end of 2020. Since the beginning of the year, some 120 000 Afghans have fled from rural areas and provincial towns to Kabul province – including some 20 000 since the start of July. 80% of the people forced to flee are women and children.

“A significant number of Afghani nationals have already fled to neighbouring countries. We should work closely with the countries in the region and be ready to provide them with the necessary humanitarian and development assistance. We must step up our support as the situation evolves.

“The EU has been engaged and has been supporting programmes linked to the forced displacement of Afghans for many years, in Afghanistan and in neighbouring countries (particularly Iran and Pakistan). More than EUR 250 million in assistance has been provided to support host communities and the sustainable reintegration of returnees and internally displaced persons, and to support capacity building for the authorities. We will continue our ongoing programmes and intensify our cooperation with host communities in Pakistan, Iran and Tajikistan, as well as other countries in the region such as Turkey.

“As things stand, the situation in Afghanistan is clearly not safe and it will not be safe for some time. Therefore we cannot force people to return to Afghanistan.

“While we continue our work to address risks of irregular migration, fight against human smuggling and manage our borders effectively, we need to offer legal, safe and organised pathways towards the EU. This reflects our comprehensive and balanced approach on migration set out in the new Pact on Migration and Asylum.

I have called on Member States to step up their engagement on resettlement, to increase resettlement quotas to help those in need of international protection and to offer complementary legal pathways. To me, it is very clear that Afghani women and girls are in a specifically dangerous situation: prioritising resettlement over irregular routes has also a clear gender dimension. Again, the Commission stands ready to help in the coordination between Member States and to provide the necessary additional financial support on this important work strand.

In addition, the EU will also continue to play a leading role in supporting Afghan refugees in the region. We will use our role as chair of the Core Group of the Solution Strategy for Afghan refugees and its Support Platform in 2021 to strengthen international community’s response to the Afghan refugee situation in the region and consequently to spur political, financial and material commitments around the regional dimension of Afghan displacement.

The rapidly evolving situation in Afghanistan poses a global challenge, which is why we need to act together and with all partners on a global level, in a resolute and fair manner, while guaranteeing the respect of fundamental rights, the protection of our values and working in a spirit of solidarity. We will cooperate closely with our international partners and we look forward to discussing the next steps, including within the UN framework and the G7.

Taliban: EU monitors women rights

Brussels 18.06.2021 This statement has been co-signed by Albania, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, European Union, Honduras, Guatemala, North Macedonia, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Senegal, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States of America.

“We are deeply worried about Afghan women and girls, their rights to education, work and freedom of movement. We call on those in positions of power and authority across Afghanistan to guarantee their protection.

“Afghan women and girls, as all Afghan people, deserve to live in safety, security and dignity. Any form of discrimination and abuse should be prevented. We in the international community stand ready to assist them with humanitarian aid and support, to ensure that their voices can be heard.

“We will monitor closely how any future government ensures rights and freedoms that have become an integral part of the life of women and girls in Afghanistan during the last twenty years”.

Meanwhile The chief of field operations of the U.N. children’s agency expressed cautious optimism about working with Taliban officials following their seizure of power in Afghanistan, citing their early expressions of support for girls’ education.

The U.N. children’s agency (UNICEF) is still delivering aid to most parts of the country and has held initial meetings with new Taliban representatives in recently seized cities like Kandahar, Herat and Jalalabad.

“We have ongoing discussions, we are quite optimistic based on those discussions,” UNICEF’s chief of field operations in Afghanistan, Mustapha Ben Messaoud, told a U.N. briefing, adding that 11 out of 13 field offices were currently operational.

“We have not a single issue with the Taliban in those field offices.”

The Taliban ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001 following strict Islamic law, forbidding women from working. Girls were not allowed to attend school and women had to cover their faces and be accompanied by a male relative if they wanted to venture out of their homes.

EU: Afghanistan Borrell Declaration

Brussels 17.08.2021 European Union Ministers of Foreign Affairs gathered today for an extraordinary meeting to consider the latest momentous developments in Afghanistan. The country finds itself at a crossroads after decades of conflict. The wellbeing and security of its citizens, political and human rights achievements, as well as regional and international security are at stake.

The negotiation process between the Afghan government and the Taliban offered the best chance to reach a solution that would guarantee security and peaceful coexistence within Afghanistan and in the region. The EU calls on all parties in Afghanistan to respect all commitments made and to pursue further an inclusive, comprehensive and enduring political solution. The protection and promotion of all human rights, in particular those of women and girls, must be an integral part of these efforts and women should be supported and able to contribute fully to this process.

The EU stresses the utmost importance of the safety and security of all EU citizens in Afghanistan, as well as local staff working for the EU or member states. Through strong coordination among member states, every possible effort is being made to ensure their security, including through the ongoing evacuation of staff and their families in need. The European Union will also pay special attention to those Afghans whose security might now be in jeopardy due to their principled engagement for our common values.

The EU calls for an immediate cessation of all violence, the restoration of security and civil order and the protection and respect for civilian life, dignity and property throughout Afghanistan. In this regard, the EU expresses deep concern about reports of serious human rights violations and abuses in areas across Afghanistan.

A comprehensive and inclusive political settlement and an enduring solution to the conflict should not be established by force, but through meaningful negotiations based on democracy, the rule of law and constitutional rule.

The EU recalls the importance of preserving and building on the political, economic and social achievements of the Afghan people since 2001, such as the rights of women, children and persons belonging to minorities, including access to education and health. Afghanistan as a signatory of the UN Charter must uphold and promote the values, rights and principles enshrined therein and honour its international obligations.

The EU aims to continue its support to the Afghan people and to democracy, good governance, human rights and social and economic development in the country, including efforts to prevent and manage the risks associated with an unstable Afghanistan in continued conflict, resulting in regional instability, drugs trafficking and uncontrolled irregular migration. In this context, EU engagement with its partners in Central Asia will be increasingly important. Combatting terrorism and preventing the use of Afghan territory by international terrorist groups remains at the core of the EU’s collective engagement in the country.

However, cooperation with any future Afghan government will be conditioned on a peaceful and inclusive settlement and respect for the fundamental rights of all Afghans, including women, youth and persons belonging to minorities, as well as respect for Afghanistan’s international obligations, commitment to the fight against corruption and preventing the use of Afghanistan’s territory by terrorist organisations.

To address the worsening humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, the European Union will continue to provide needs-based assistance to the Afghan people and calls on all actors to allow safe and unhindered access for humanitarian assistance to Afghan women, men and children in need, including to the large number of internally displaced persons (IDPs). The EU calls on the Taliban to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law in all circumstances. The EU will also support Afghanistan’s neighbours in coping with negative spill overs, which are to be expected from an increasing flow of refugees and migrants.

TALIBAN: UNICEF cautious optimism

Brussels 17.08.2021 The chief of field operations of the U.N. children’s agency expressed cautious optimism about working with Taliban officials following their seizure of power in Kabul on Sunday August 15, citing their early expressions of support for girls’ education.

The U.N. children’s agency (UNICEF) is still delivering aid to most parts of the country and has held initial meetings with new Taliban representatives in recently seized cities like Kandahar, Herat and Jalalabad.

“We have ongoing discussions, we are quite optimistic based on those discussions,” UNICEF’s chief of field operations in Afghanistan, Mustapha Ben Messaoud, told a U.N. briefing, adding that 11 out of 13 field offices were currently operational.

“We have not a single issue with the Taliban in those field offices.”

The Taliban ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001 following strict Islamic law, forbidding women from working. Girls were not allowed to attend school and women had to cover their faces and be accompanied by a male relative if they wanted to venture out of their homes.

U.N. chief Antonio Guterres warned on Monday of “chilling” curbs on human rights under the Taliban and mounting violations against women and girls and a U.N. official warned on Tuesday that thousands of Afghan rights workers were at risk. read more

UNICEF cited some Taliban local representatives as saying they were waiting for guidance from their leaders on the issue of educating girls, while others have said they want schools “up and running”.

One Taliban health director in Heratwhere UNICEF is the only U.N. agency present had also asked female employees to report to duty, Ben Messaoud said. UNICEF had not yet established a direct communication with the Taliban in the capital Kabul, he added.

Rupert Colville, spokesman for Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the worries of many Afghans about the Taliban were “thoroughly understandable”.

“We call on the Taliban to demonstrate through their actions, not just their words, that the fears for the safety of so many people from so many different walks of life are addressed,” he said.

Unlike many countries which are scrambling to evacuate their diplomats from the country, the United Nations does not plan staff evacuations and is appealing for additional aid for its operations amid warnings of growing humanitarian needs.

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