Taliban meet EU-US team, Brussels pledges $1.2b aid
DOHA, Oct 12: The Taliban held their first face-to-face talks with a joint US-EU delegation Tuesday in Qatar as Brussels pledged one billion euros ($1.2 billion) in aid for Afghanistan. The hardline Islamists are seeking recognition, as well as assistance to avoid a humanitarian disaster, after they returned to power in August following the withdrawal of US troops after 20 years of war.
UN chief Antonio Guterres earlier urged the world to donate to drought-hit and impoverished Afghanistan to head off economic collapse, but also slammed the Taliban's "broken" promises to Afghan women and girls.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the EU aid package, meant "to avert a major humanitarian and socio-economic collapse", at a virtual G20 summit hosted by Italy on Tuesday.
She stressed the funds are "direct support" for Afghans and would be channelled to international organisations working on the ground, not to the Taliban's interim government which Brussels does not recognise.
"We have been clear about our conditions for any engagement with the Afghan authorities, including on the respect of human rights," she said. "So far, the reports speak for themselves. But the Afghan people should not pay the price of the Taliban's actions."
The Taliban badly need assistance as Afghanistan's economy is in a parlous state with most aid cut off even as winter nears, food prices rising and unemployment spiking. EU countries are wary at the prospect of a surge of Afghan asylum-seekers trying to enter the bloc, as happened in 2015 with Syrians fleeing their war.
Brussels' calculation is that donating money to help stabilise Afghanistan and assist countries between it and Europe could stem any flow. The direct talks held in Doha on Tuesday were facilitated by Qatar, which has long hosted a Taliban political office. -AFP