Linking the resumption of aid to Afghanistan to respect for human rights, Westerners laid out their demands on the Taliban on Tuesday in Oslo, on the last day of an unprecedented and controversial visit by Islamists.
The final chapter of their first official trip to Europe since their return to power in August, the Taliban, still in search of international recognition and money, had bilateral meetings behind closed doors with several Western diplomats. The latter seized the opportunity to explain what they expect from the Taliban who have once again become masters of a country where more than half of the population is threatened by hunger this winter.
“I also stressed the need for primary and secondary schools to be open to boys and girls across the country when the school year begins in March,” tweeted the European Union’s special envoy to Afghanistan. Tomas Niklasson was responding to another tweet from the spokesperson for the Afghan Foreign Ministry, which welcomed the EU’s commitment to “continue its humanitarian aid to Afghanistan”.
Led by their Foreign Minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, the Islamist delegation also had bilateral talks with a senior French official, Bertrand Lotholary, the British special envoy Nigel Casey and members of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Similar talks with US officials have not been confirmed.
The Taliban see in these meetings at the Soria Moria hotel, on a snowy hill in Oslo, a step towards international recognition. “The fact of having come to Norway (…) is a success in itself because we shared the international scene”, welcomed Amir Khan Muttaqi on Monday, “from these meetings, we are certain to draw support in the sectors humanitarian, health and education in Afghanistan”.
Inviting power, Norway affirms that the discussions are neither “legitimation nor recognition” of the Taliban government. But her decision to welcome this delegation, transported in a private jet which she chartered at great expense, was strongly criticized by many experts, members of the diaspora and Afghan activists.
Also in their sights: the presence among the 15 members of the delegation – exclusively male – of Anas Haqqani, one of the leaders of the Haqqani network, responsible for deadly attacks in Afghanistan and considered by the United States as a “terrorist” group.
This visit “is the first step to start dealing with those who hold de facto power in Afghanistan”, explained Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store. “If we don’t start with this first step, I fear that we are exposed to something quite terrible in terms of humanitarian catastrophe”, he continued, defending the controversial initiative of this visit.
No state has yet recognized the Taliban regime and the international community is waiting to see how the Islamists govern the country before any aid is released.