Taliban expected in Norway for aid talks

Taliban administration is yet to be formally recognised by any country due to concerns over its links with terrorism and human rights abuses

A member of the Taliban forces stands guard at the provincial intelligence compound in Jalalabad. AFP

A Taliban delegation is expected to hold talks with Norwegian officials and Afghan civil society representatives in Oslo next week.

It would be the first time since the Taliban took over the country last August, that they have met in Europe. Earlier they travelled to Russia, Iran, Qatar and Pakistan. It was not immediately clear who will lead the Taliban delegation to the Norwegian capital.

“This is not a legitimation or recognition of the Taliban,” Norway's Foreign Affairs Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said in a statement. “But we must talk to those who in practice govern the country today.”

The visit is scheduled from Sunday to Tuesday, and "the Taliban will meet representatives of the Norwegian authorities and officials from a number of allied countries," for talks on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and human rights, , the Norwegian foreign ministry said Friday.

The Foreign Ministry said that the Taliban delegation meetings also will include Afghans with backgrounds “from various fields and include women leaders, journalists, and people who work with, among other things, human rights and humanitarian, economic, social and political issues.”

It said that earlier this week, a Norwegian delegation visited Kabul for talks on the precarious humanitarian situation in the country.

"We are extremely concerned about the grave situation in Afghanistan, where millions of people are facing a full-blown humanitarian disaster," said Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt.

"In order to be able to help the civilian population in Afghanistan, it is essential that both the international community and Afghans from various parts of society engage in dialogue with the Taliban," Huitfeldt added.

Stressing that Norway would be "clear about our expectations," particularly on "girls' education and human rights," Huitfeldt said the meetings would "not represent a legitimisation or recognition of the Taliban."

"But we must talk to the de facto authorities in the country. We cannot allow the political situation to lead to an even worse humanitarian disaster," Huitfeldt said.

The Taliban swept back to power in Afghanistan last summer as international troops withdrew after a two-decade presence. A US-led invasion in late 2001 toppled the Taliban in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated drastically since August. International aid came to a sudden halt and the United States has frozen $9.5 billion (8.4 billion euros) in assets in the Afghan central bank.

Famine now threatens 23 million Afghans, or 55 percent of the population, according to the United Nations, which says it needs $5 billion from donor countries this year to address the humanitarian crisis in the country.

Updated: January 21, 2022, 11:01 AM