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US and Taliban talk about earthquake assistance, foreign reserves in Doha

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Talks took place in Doha between the United States and the Taliban in the wake of the devastating earthquake in Afghanistan.

The Taliban seeks access to Afghan foreign reserves frozen by the United States [Getty]

The US State Department said on Friday that talks between the United States and the Taliban continued in Doha earlier this week to discuss earthquake aid, months after the two sides last met in the Qatari capital in March.

The Taliban are looking for a way to release some of the country’s foreign reserves – currently frozen by the US – in the wake of last month’s devastating earthquake, as the US looks for guarantees that the money will go to help the population.

During meetings on Wednesday and Thursday, the US State Department reiterated its previous pledge to provide $55 million in new earthquake relief assistance.

“The two sides discussed in detail US measures to preserve $3.5 billion in Central Bank of Afghanistan reserves for the benefit of the Afghan people,” the statement said, funds that the White House said last week the United States was “urgently” working to clear. .

Last week’s 5.9-magnitude earthquake in eastern Afghanistan, which killed more than 1,000 people and displaced tens of thousands, adds to the urgency of the funding discussion.

“The United States expressed its condolences for the loss of life and suffering in Afghanistan due to the recent earthquakes,” the State Department said of the meeting chaired by Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West.

The United States raised “concerns about increased Taliban interference in the delivery of humanitarian assistance” and “concerns about transparency in service delivery,” the statement said.

According to the State Department, US representatives have also pushed Taliban authorities over women’s rights — a sticking point that prompted Washington to cancel talks in Doha in March, when the group closed girls’ high schools in Afghanistan.

The statement said the United States supports the demands of the Afghan people to allow girls to return to school, allow women to work, contribute to the country’s economic growth, and move and express themselves freely.

The hardline Islamist Taliban movement took over in August 2021 after the United States abandoned a 20-year military effort.

At that time, Washington froze $7 billion in reserves and the international community suspended billions of direct aid on which Afghanistan and its population of about 40 million depended.

The currency collapsed and the country plunged into a serious economic crisis, although some help has been restored.

The United States still considers the Taliban a terrorist group, which has insisted that any improvement in relations will depend on meeting key concerns.

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