Analysis-From Doha, EU limits diplomacy with Taliban to Afghan aid By Reuters
By Robin Emmott and John Chalmers
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union will focus on humanitarian aid as it figures out how to deal with the Taliban, aiming on an informal arrangement with Afghanistan’s new rulers to ensure safe aid corridors, four diplomats and two officials said.
The EU’s governments have begun to limit their presence in Doha, Qatar, more than one month after Islamist militants seized control of Kabul following an unrelenting Western withdrawal.
These reduced goals reflect security concerns as well as confusion regarding who to deal in Taliban. Their leaders declared a temporary government made up of men, which was against the appeals by world powers to form an inclusive team.
Diplomats stated that the formation of a Taliban government made up of hardliners and veterans, as well as numerous reports about human rights violations have scuppered their optimism since they governed Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001.
A diplomat from the EU stated, “The Taliban will need to decide between money and isolation. But we have very low expectations of them.” Today, there is no sign of any signals.
Afghanistan is receiving very limited aid, as poverty has risen since August 15, when the Taliban came to power. The UNHCR’s chief Filippo Grandei met last week with the Taliban.
As the EU prepares a $300 million aid package for Afghanistan, it hopes to be able to exert its influence and force the Taliban into respecting human rights.
Also, it needs the telephone numbers and names of Taliban officials to be able to trust once flights arrive from Pakistan and United Arab Emirates.
According to a top EU diplomat who was briefed in Doha on talks between the EU, the Taliban and other countries regarding humanitarian aid routes, “We want guarantees that these corridors will be free from terrorist attacks and free from interference”
Diplomats stated that EU demands include that all non-governmental aid organizations be protected and that women be allowed to join their aid teams. They also demand that Kabul’s airport not be used for aid delivery. The Taliban should not decide which areas or regions will receive aid.
Josep Borrell, the EU’s chief of foreign policy, said that last week it wanted to restart its Afghanistan mission. Pekka Haavisto, Finland’s foreign minister, told Reuters that the EU’s humanitarian assistance unit will operate in Afghanistan.
He stated that “we would have firsthand information on the situation as well as some technical discussions with Taliban about how assistance could be reached those who are most in dire need.”
The EU agreed to five goals the Taliban had to achieve for full engagement. However, the majority of diplomacy in Afghanistan will be focused on Afghanistan’s neighboring countries – Pakistan (Iran, Tajikistan Turkmenistan) and Uzbekistan. These countries are key in preventing refugees from fleeing Europe.
This week, EU leaders and the United States will be discussing their plans with other Western countries in New York at the United Nations General Assembly. The Taliban may also propose their U.N. ambassador, but it was unclear.
LACK OF SECURITY, TRUST
The EU’s special representative to Afghanistan, Tomas Niklasson, met Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, deputy head of the movement’s political commission, in Doha earlier this month and was told that the EU would be welcome back in Kabul, according to diplomats.
However, EU foreign ministers who met separately with Stanikzai do not know whether he is speaking for Kandahar and Kabul Taliban. They also don’t believe he does so because they are not in Qatar.
Brussels discussions have been restricted by the Taliban government structure and concerns about human rights. The EU ambassadors did not discuss the possibility of paying Afghan salaries directly or whether funds could be directly transferred to Afghanistan’s central bank.
A return to Kabul will be logistically challenging due to the Taliban’s intrusion into European embassies, such as those in Denmark and Norway that are not EU members.
EU personnel will be stationed in Doha, and only make brief visits to Kabul to meet with members. According to one diplomat, the EU would have to hire contractors or provide security for themselves rather than depend on any Western security alliance.
Another EU diplomat said, “Even though you only want to send a few people to Kabul on a regular basis, you’d have to make sure they are safe to work.” But it is still in its early stages and I do not believe we have made any significant progress.
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