G7 agrees on 'road map' for engaging with Taliban

Joint statement after emergency meeting says the Taliban will be held accountable for their actions

The G7 has agreed a “road map” on future engagements with the Taliban, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, after world leaders held virtual talks on Afghanistan.

Mr Johnson, who led the meeting, said “the number one condition that we're insisting on is safe passage” for those wanting to leave Afghanistan after August 31, when Nato forces are set to leave the country.

On removing people from Kabul, he said the UK “will go on right up until the last moment we can”, but he conceded that “the situation at the airport is not getting any better”.

“What we're saying is Afghanistan can't lurch back into becoming a breeding ground of terror, Afghanistan can't become a narco-state, girls have got to be educated up to the age of 18,” he said.

Mr Johnson was among leaders at the G7 talks who had hoped to convince US President Joe Biden to extend the August 31 deadline and allow more people to leave.

“When this evacuation mission ends — and the meeting today did not lead to any change in the dates — there will be a phase in which we have to ensure that Afghan civilians and other vulnerable people can leave the country,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“In this regard, there is the question of whether you can start operating a civilian airport again. There are intensive discussions about this,” she added.

A joint statement by G7 leaders said the Taliban would be held accountable for their actions to prevent terrorism in Afghanistan.

Nato member states would fight terrorism “wherever it is found”, they said.

The G7 said the Taliban’s legitimacy would depend on whether they uphold the rights of women and girls and work to ensure a stable Afghanistan.

Further demands by the G7 included allowing unhindered humanitarian access to the country and preventing human and drug trafficking.

“Afghanistan must never again become a safe haven for terrorism, nor a source of terrorist attacks on others,” the leaders said.

“Any future Afghan government must adhere to Afghanistan’s international obligations and commitment to protect against terrorism.”

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid earlier told Afghans not go to Kabul airport or try to leave the country.

“We ask the Americans, don't encourage Afghans to leave. We need their talent,” he said.

The Taliban said the US had taken “Afghan experts”, such as engineers, out of the country.

Mr Mujahid said foreign citizens would be allowed to leave before the August 31 deadline, but he repeated that the Taliban would not agree to an extension.

European Council President Charles Michel said Brussels had pushed the US to secure the airport “as long as necessary” and ensure access for everyone entitled to evacuation. He said that completing evacuations from Kabul was the most pressing priority for the EU.

“We are concerned about the ability to safely reach the Kabul airport,” he said. “We call on the new Afghan authorities to allow free passage to all foreign and Afghan citizens who wish to get to the airports.”

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said most EU staff and their families have been relocated from Afghanistan and are safe.

She said countries should co-ordinate efforts to resettle Afghans who are fleeing the Taliban. All nations that fought in Afghanistan should take part in this, she said.

Mr Michel said it was too early to say how the EU's relations with the Taliban would develop.

“Let’s not allow the creation of a new market for smugglers and human traffickers,” he said. “We are determined to keep the migratory flows under control and the EU’s borders protected.

“The co-operation between Nato and other allies will be key … to prevent the entry of foreign terrorist fighters.

“There will be more lessons to draw from what happened in Afghanistan. These events show that developing our strategic autonomy while keeping our alliances as strong as ever is important for the future of Europe.”

Ms von der Leyen said G7 leaders “all agreed that it is our moral duty to help the Afghan people and to provide as much support as conditions allow".

“The situation is indeed a tragedy for the Afghan people and it is a setback for the international community,” she said.

Ms von der Leyen said G7 leaders “all agreed that it is our moral duty to help the Afghan people and to provide as much support as conditions allow".

Mr Johnson said the UK has taken 9,000 people out of Kabul on 57 flights so far, but was hopeful of taking “thousands more out” amid chaos outside the airport as Afghans attempt to flee the country.

“I hope there is now a different path forward and a better future,” he said. “I don't think anybody is going to believe that this is going to be easy.”

The UK prime minister insisted that the UK’s initial evacuation phase had been a “considerable success”.

Updated: August 24th 2021, 10:29 PM