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The Special Representative for Afghanistan, Nigel Casey, on the right, shakes hands with Taliban representative Amir Khan Muttaqi, in the center, ahead of a meeting in Oslo, Norway, on Monday.

Stian Lysberg Solum / AP


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Stian Lysberg Solum / AP


The Special Representative for Afghanistan, Nigel Casey, on the right, shakes hands with Taliban representative Amir Khan Muttaqi, in the center, ahead of a meeting in Oslo, Norway, on Monday.

Stian Lysberg Solum / AP

OSLO, Norway The Taliban and Western diplomats have begun their first official talks in Europe since taking control of Afghanistan in August.

The closed-door meetings were taking place at a hotel in the snow-capped mountains above the Norwegian capital. Representatives of the Taliban will surely raise their demand that the nearly $ 10 billion frozen by the United States and other Western countries be released as Afghanistan faces an insecure humanitarian situation.

“We are asking them to melt Afghan assets and not punish ordinary Afghans for political discourse,” Taliban delegate Shafiullah Azam said Sunday night. “Because of the hunger, because of the deadly winter, I think it is time for the international community to support the Afghans, not to punish them for their political differences.”


Afghan civil society delegate Heda Khamoush holds photographs of two missing women ahead of a meeting in Oslo, Norway, on Monday.

Stian Lysberg Solum / AP


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Stian Lysberg Solum / AP


Afghan civil society delegate Heda Khamoush holds photographs of two missing women ahead of a meeting in Oslo, Norway, on Monday.

Stian Lysberg Solum / AP

Ahead of the talks, Western diplomats met with Afghan women rights activists and human rights defenders to hear from civil society in Afghanistan and the Afghan diaspora about their demands and assess the current situation on the ground. The meeting was attended by representatives of the EU, US, Britain, France, Italy and host Norway.

The three-day talks opened Sunday with face-to-face meetings between the Taliban and civil society representatives.

A joint statement posted overnight by Zabihullah Mujahid, Afghanistan’s deputy minister of culture and information, said after the talks that “participants in the meeting agreed that mutual understanding and co-operation are the only solutions to all Afghanistan’s problems” and stressed that ” “All Afghans must work together for better political, economic and security results in the country.”

The United Nations has managed to provide little liquidity and allowed the Taliban administration to pay for imports, including electricity. But the UN has warned that about 1 million Afghan children are at risk of starvation and most of the country’s 38 million people live below the poverty line.

In the face of Taliban demands for funding, Western powers are likely to put the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan on their agenda, along with repeated Western demands that the Taliban administration share power with Afghanistan’s ethnic and religious minority groups. .

Since taking power in mid-August, the Taliban have imposed extensive restrictions, many of them on women. Women have been barred from many jobs outside the fields of health and education, their access to education has been restricted beyond the sixth grade and they have been ordered to wear the hijab. However, the Taliban did not impose the burqa, which was mandatory when they first ruled Afghanistan in the 1990s.

The Taliban have increasingly targeted rights groups in Afghanistan, as well as journalists, by arresting and sometimes beating television crews covering demonstrations.

A U.S. delegation, led by Special Representative for Afghanistan Tom West, plans to discuss “forming a representative political system; responding to urgent humanitarian and economic crises; security and counter-terrorism concerns; and human rights, especially education for girls and women, ”according to a statement issued by the US Department of State.

The Scandinavian country, the birthplace of the Nobel Peace Prize, is no stranger to diplomacy. It has been involved in peace efforts in a number of countries, including Mozambique, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Colombia, the Philippines, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Syria, Myanmar, Somalia, Sri Lanka and South Sudan.

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2/ https://www.npr.org/2022/01/24/1075273872/afghanistans-taliban-have-started-their-first-talks-in-europe-since-takeover

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