Afghan Taliban govt to attend next round of UN talks in Doha

Taliban spox says delegation would participate because talks' agenda appeared "beneficial to Afghanistan"

By
AFP
Members of Afghanistan's delegation, led by the Taliban-run government's Acting Labour and Social Affairs Minister Abdul Hanan Omari, attend the St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg, Russia June 5, 2024. — Reuters

  • Delegation to "express Afghanistan's position" at UN conference: spox.
  • Talks in Doha are scheduled for June 30 and July 1.
  • Huddle aims to "increase int'l engagement with Afghanistan". 


KABUL: Taliban authorities will attend the third round of United Nations-hosted talks on Afghanistan in the Qatari capital, a government spokesperson said on Sunday, after snubbing an invitation to the previous round.

The Taliban government's participation in the conference of foreign special envoys to Afghanistan had been in doubt after it was not included in the first set of talks and then refused an invitation to the second round in February.

"A delegation of the Islamic Emirate will participate in the coming Doha conference. They will represent Afghanistan there and express Afghanistan's position," Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP.

The talks in Doha are scheduled for June 30 and July 1, and have already been criticised by women's groups.

Mujahid told Afghan media on Sunday that a delegation — yet to be announced — would attend because the talks' agenda appeared "beneficial to Afghanistan".

The agenda includes "topics such as aid for Afghanistan and creating opportunities for investors in Afghanistan, which are important", he said.

However, foreign ministry spokesperson Abdul Qahar Balkhi warned in a post on social media site X later on Sunday that "if there are any changes to the agenda and participation, it would naturally affect our decision" to attend.

Launched by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in May 2023, the series of talks aim to "increase international engagement with Afghanistan in a more coherent, coordinated and structured manner", according to the UN.

Calls to prioritise women

Civil society groups that included women were invited to the February talks but the Taliban government refused to participate unless its members could be the sole representatives of Afghanistan.

It also requested to meet Guterres, who at the time said the set of conditions to participate "were not acceptable".

In recent weeks, multiple UN representatives and international envoys have held meetings with the Taliban government on the next Doha talks, which Guterres will not attend.

Diplomatic sources told AFP there were plans to consult with Afghan civil society groups before and after the next talks, but that they would not take part in meetings that include the Taliban authorities.

The sources said the official meetings were due to cover finance and economic issues, as well as counternarcotics efforts.

Full participants

The international community has wrestled with its approach to the Taliban government since it returned to power in 2021, still not officially recognised by any other state.

Human Rights Watch's Associate Women's Rights Director, Heather Barr, said the Taliban should not have been allowed to make demands on the conditions of the meetings considering their policies targeting women.

"It is unthinkable that diplomats could gather to discuss Afghanistan in the middle of such a crisis and do so without women's rights being the main issue on the agenda and Afghan women being full participants in the discussion," she told AFP.

Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, extended Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi an advance invitation to the talks during a visit to Afghanistan in May, a statement said.

A key element of the talks held in the Gulf state, which hosted the Taliban during years of peace talks with the United States, is a UN independent assessment on Afghanistan released late last year.

The assessment, backed by Western nations, suggested recognition of the Taliban authorities be tied to the removal of restraints on women's rights and access to education.

It also recommends the appointment of a UN special envoy, which the Taliban government has rejected.