Norway places 'tangible demands' before Taliban on human rights

The Afghan ruling group considers the trip a step towards international recognition and the unblocking of financial aid

A Taliban delegation led by Foreign Miniser Amir Khan Muttaqi, right, during a meeting with Norwegian officials in Oslo. Reuters

A list of “tangible demands” will be put on the table in talks with the Taliban over humanitarian aid and the fate of billions of dollars in frozen funds, a Norwegian official said on Tuesday.

The Taliban delegation, led by Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, is in Norway since Saturday and considers the trip a step towards international recognition and the unblocking of financial aid.

Taliban leaders met a Norwegian political official and non-government groups behind closed doors at a hotel near Oslo on Tuesday.

“This is not the beginning of an … open-ended process,” said Norwegian state secretary Henrik Thune, who was to sit down with the delegation on Tuesday.

“We are going to place tangible demands that we can follow up on and see if they have been met," he said.

The demands are expected to include a call for delivering humanitarian aid directly to the Afghan people, and raise the plight of two women activists who went missing in Kabul last week after taking part in a demonstration. The Taliban have denied responsibility.

The Taliban delegation met western government officials, Afghan activists and human rights campaigners during their Oslo trip. AFP

It will also demand Taliban's compliance with human rights, particularly of women and minorities, such as access to education and health services, the right to work, and freedom of movement.

Girls in most of the country’s 34 provinces have not been allowed to attend secondary school since the hard-line movement seized power in August last year. Women have been barred from most public universities and public-sector workplaces.

Those directives hark back to their previous rule of Afghanistan in the 1990s, when women were barred from all aspects of public life.

The Taliban delegation has met western government officials, Afghan activists and human rights’ campaigners over three days in an attempt to unlock nearly $10 billion in frozen assets.

Afghanistan stands on the brink of economic collapse and starvation, with 98 per cent of the population not getting enough to eat, the World Food Programme has said. Nine million people are at risk of starvation.

The World Bank has frozen money pledged to its Afghanistan Reconstruction Fund and the US is withholding assets worth $9.5bn belonging to the Afghan central bank.

Former diplomats and UN officials wrote a joint letter pleading for the reinstatement of the reconstruction fund and for assets to be unfrozen so that civil servants and public sector workers could be reimbursed, including Afghanistan’s 250,000 teachers who have not been paid salaries for months.

Updated: January 25, 2022, 6:13 PM
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