UN Seeks Taliban’s Presence at Qatar-Hosted Huddle on Afghanistan – Voice of America – VOA News

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The United Nations says it would like to see Taliban representatives attend a two-day international conference on Afghanistan that will take place in Qatar next week.

Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi said Wednesday the Taliban would participate in the February 18 meeting, provided they are received as official representatives of Afghanistan.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will host the two-day session, with member states and regional organizations’ special envoys on Afghanistan in attendance.

Stephane Dujarric, the secretary-general’s spokesperson, said that the objective of the meeting is to discuss the international engagement approach with the Taliban since they reclaimed power.

“An important aspect of the event is the intention to provide the opportunity for the special envoys to meet collectively with Afghan stakeholders, including representatives of the de facto authorities and Afghan civil society participants, including women,” Dujarric told VOA.

The event in Doha, the capital of the tiny Gulf state, will mark the second such U.N.-organized gathering in less than a year. The Taliban were not invited to the session convened in May 2023.

Muttaqi said they “are in close contact” with relevant U.N. officials and “have shared our views on the possible participation” of their delegation. His office said he made the remarks in a meeting with Russian Ambassador Dmitry Zhirnov in Kabul.

“If there is an opportunity for high-level meaningful consultations between IEA and U.N. regarding all issues of Afghanistan, and the IEA is able to duly fulfill its responsibility as the representative of Afghanistan, then the Doha meeting would be a good opportunity,” Muttaqi was quoted as telling Zhirnov, using the official title of the Taliban administration, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

“If the IEA conditions are not taken into consideration, nonparticipation would be preferred,” said the chief Taliban diplomat.

Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, right, and Russian Ambassador Dmitry Zhirnov meet in Kabul on Feb. 14, 2024, to discuss the Qatar meeting to be held Sunday. (Courtesy Taliban Foreign Ministry)

Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, right, and Russian Ambassador Dmitry Zhirnov meet in Kabul on Feb. 14, 2024, to discuss the Qatar meeting to be held Sunday. (Courtesy Taliban Foreign Ministry)

A key agenda item for the conference is the potential appointment of a U.N. envoy who would coordinate increased international engagement with Taliban leaders in Kabul. The appointment, recommended in an independent U.N. assessment, is backed by the United States and its European allies.

China and Russia abstained from a December 2023 U.N. Security Council vote on a resolution authorizing the secretary-general to appoint a special envoy for Afghanistan.

However, the de facto Afghan authorities remain opposed to appointing a U.N. envoy to the country.

U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Tom West and Rina Amiri, the special envoy for Afghan women, girls and human rights, will attend Sunday’s meeting in Doha.

“The United States strongly supports the resolution’s call for a U.N. special envoy for Afghanistan and urges the secretary-general to appoint a special envoy as soon as possible,” State Department spokesperson Mathew Miller told reporters on Tuesday.

Miller added, “A special envoy will be well-positioned to coordinate international engagement in Afghanistan to achieve the objectives laid out in this resolution.”

Washington has repeatedly clarified that it is not part of any efforts to “normalize” or recognize the Taliban government.

“If they want to be seen as legitimate rulers, they need to meet all the commitments that they said they would meet and make. And they haven’t done that,” John Kirby, the presidential national security spokesperson, told a White House news conference Monday.

The United Nations has ignored the Taliban’s calls to allow them to represent Afghanistan at the world body, and no country has formally declared its recognition of the new Kabul government.

The de facto Afghan authorities have enforced their strict interpretation of Islamic law since recapturing power in August 2021, when U.S.-led international forces withdrew from the country after 20 years of involvement in the war with then-Taliban insurgents.

The Taliban have imposed sweeping restrictions on women’s rights to work and receive an education beyond the sixth grade. They have largely ignored U.N.-led international calls to remove the curbs and run the country through an inclusive Afghan government.

The Taliban defend their governance as aligned with Afghan culture and Islamic law.

U.N. and global rights groups have consistently accused the Taliban of committing human rights violations through their discriminatory policies, with some decrying them as “gender apartheid.”

Washington and the U.N. have imposed sanctions on the de facto rulers, citing concerns related to terrorism.

VOA UN correspondent Margeret Besheer and Akmal Dawi contributed to the story.

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