Guterres wraps up meeting on Afghanistan, says another is planned

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Tuesday afternoon that the Doha meeting was not about recognizing the Taliban but about developing a common international approach to dealing with the de facto authorities.

The meeting was described by the UN as nations and organizations trying to reach unified stances on human rights, governance, counterterrorism and anti-drug efforts.

Speaking at a press conference after the summit that brought special envoys together from more than 20 countries, Guterres said collectively all participants were worried about the stability of Afghanistan – that relates to the persistent presence of terrorist organizations.

He stated “to achieve our objectives, we cannot disengage” with the Taliban and said “it is difficult to overestimate the gravity of the situation” in the country.

He noted that 97% of the population lives in poverty and that donor funding is drying up.

Guterres emphasized that the current ban on local women working for the United Nations in Afghanistan is unacceptable “and puts lives in jeopardy”.

Asked by a journalist if there would be any circumstance under which he’d be willing to directly meet with the Taliban, Guterres said: “When it is the right moment to do so, I will obviously not refuse that possibility — but today is not the right moment to do so.”

Suhail Shaheen, the head of the Taliban’s political office in Doha, meanwhile told The Associated Press that the Taliban dismissed the talks.

“If they are not ready to hear us and know our position regarding the issues, how can they reach a convincing and palatable solution?” Shaheen said. “One-sided decisions couldn’t deliver. Afghanistan is an independent country. It has its own voice; we want them to listen to our voice.”

Shaheen on Sunday met Andrew McCoubrey, director of Afghanistan and Pakistan at the United Kingdom’s Foreign Office, and Yue Xiaoyong, China’s special envoy for Afghanistan, in Doha.

“As you know, the U.N. envoy has talks with government officials in Kabul, but when it comes to these sorts of conferences … we are not invited,” Shaheen added. “We think this is not the solution for Afghan issues and its outcome can’t be effective.”

Also critical of the closed-door meeting was a group of 15 Afghanistan nationals who sent an open letter to Guterres stating their “grave concern” over the lack of Afghanistan representation at the conference.

The group of 105 signatories stated “the absence of the true representatives of the citizens of Afghanistan in such a forum is of utmost concern, especially since the reported statements of the Under-Secretary General of the UN Amina J. Mohammad, that in this gathering ‘baby steps’ may be taken leading to the recognition of the Taliban terrorist regime. We find such statements irresponsible and a shocking disregard of the despicable policies and practices of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.”

Guterres on Tuesday emphasized however, that the meeting was not aimed at recognizing the Taliban.

Concerns also remain over Afghanistan again becoming a haven for Islamic extremists wanting to carry out attacks abroad.
The group of 105 said in their letter the Taliban are “a terrorist group whose deeply repressive regime has systematically sought to erase more than half of the population from society.

“Having denied women and girls almost all of their fundamental human rights, the Taliban has become the only regime in the world upholding a system of gender apartheid,” they stated.

The countries that took part in the Doha summit included China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Norway, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States and Uzbekistan.