The Taliban and Western diplomats are holding a meeting at the Soria Moria Hotel, on a snowy hilltop outside Oslo, Reuters reports. After a positive meeting with Afghan activists, the group also holds talks with Western officials.
On Monday, the talks focused on humanitarian crisis that deepens in Afghanistan, a country where the Taliban stormed back to power last August. Twenty years after being toppled in a US-led invasion, the Taliban shaped a government.
The 15 members of the all-male delegation arrived on Saturday on board a plane chartered by the Norwegian government. The closed-door discussions with representatives of the European Union, the US, France, the UK, Germany, Italy, and Norway are being held on Monday at the Soria Moria Hotel.
Over the months, the Taliban has been demanding that its assets of nearly $10bn held by the US be released and Afghanistan be linked to global trade. For the war-torn nation, the investments are critically important. The freezing of Afghan central bank assets worth billions of dollars by the US and suspension of funds by international financial institutions have triggered a banking crisis and caused a near collapse of the Afghan economy.
“We are requesting them to unfreeze Afghan assets and not punish ordinary Afghans because of the political discourse,” Taliban delegate Shafiullah Azam said.
As of mid-January, the Afghans faces the starvation and deadly winter. As the Afghan delegation believes, the meetings with Western officials could be a step to legitimise the Afghan government. In addition, this type of invitation and communication will help Brussels, Washington or many other countries to erase the wrong picture of the Afghan government.
Commenting on the meeting with Afghans, Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt earlier stressed that the talks were “not a legitimation or recognition of the Taliban”.
A US delegation, led by Special Representative for Afghanistan Tom West, plans to discuss “the formation of a representative political system; responses to the urgent humanitarian and economic crises; security and counterterrorism concerns; and human rights, especially education for girls and women”, according to a statement released by the US State Department.