Divided UN council fails to approve more top Taliban travel

Russia and China asked for more time on Friday evening to consider the latest US proposal

Taliban supporters rejoice on the first anniversary of the fall of Kabul. Reuters
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The divided UN Security Council has failed to reach agreement on whether to extend travel exemptions for 13 Taliban officials now ruling Afghanistan.

UN diplomats said Russia and China want to allow all 13 to continue to travel while the US and western nations are determined to cut the number to protest the Taliban’s rollback of women’s rights and failure to form an inclusive government as it promised.

Russia and China asked for more time on Friday evening to consider the latest US proposal, the Security Council diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because discussions have been private.

It means the travel ban will be levelled on all 13 Taliban officials until Monday afternoon at the earliest when Russia and China must respond to the US proposal.

Dozens of Taliban members have been on the UN sanctions blacklist for years, subject to a travel ban, asset freeze and arms embargo. But some Taliban officials were granted waivers so they could travel to participate in talks aimed at restoring peace and stability to Afghanistan.

Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan last August 15, as many as 700 people have been killed and 1,400 wounded even though security on the whole has improved, according to a report last month by the UN political mission in Afghanistan. It highlighted how women have been stripped of many of their human rights, barred from secondary education and subjected to restrictions on their movements.

In June, the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against the Taliban banned two Taliban officials from travelling in response to their crackdown on women - Said Ahmad Shaidkhel, the acting deputy education minister, and Abdul Baqi Basir Awal Shah, also known as Abdul Baqi Haqqani, the acting Minister of Higher Education.

With the expiration of travel waivers for the remaining 13 Taliban officials looming, the US on Thursday proposed reimposing the travel ban on seven of them and keeping the exemption for six others, but limiting their travel only to Qatar, where U.S.-Taliban talks have taken place, council diplomats said.

Russia and China made a rival proposal that all 13 Taliban officials be granted travel exemptions for 90 days, but only to go to Russia, China, Qatar and “regional countries."

Russia and China objected to the US proposal, the diplomats said, and the UK, France and Ireland opposed the Russia-China proposal, insisting that the exemption can’t continue for all 13 officials because of the Taliban’s lack of progress on meeting its commitments on women, forming an inclusive government and other issues.

On Friday afternoon, diplomats said, the US revised its proposal which would ban travel for seven of the Taliban officials and keep the travel waivers for six others for 90 days with no geographic limits.

That’s the proposal that Russia and China are now considering.

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Updated: August 20, 2022, 12:43 AM