EU will engage with Taliban, subject to conditions: Foreign policy chief

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EU countries on Friday laid out their conditions for stepping up engagement with the Taliban, agreeing to establish a joint Kabul “presence” to help departures if security allows.

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“We have to engage with the new government in Afghanistan, which doesn’t mean recognition, it’s an operational engagement,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said, following a meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers in Slovenia.

“This operational engagement will increase depending on the behavior of this government.”

He laid out a raft of “benchmarks” that the new authorities would have to meet as the Taliban gears up to announce a new government after seizing power.

These included Afghanistan not serving as a base for terrorism, respecting the rights of women and the media, the establishment of an “inclusive and representative” government, and allowing access for aid.

In addition, he said that the Taliban must live up to its commitment to allow foreign nationals and Afghans at “risk” to leave after the US-led evacuations ended at the end of August.

Borrell said EU countries agreed to establish a joint presence in Kabul if security allows to deal with the Taliban and ensure the departure of Afghans the bloc had been unable to get out of the country.

EU diplomats have left Afghanistan for neighboring countries or to return to their homelands.

On humanitarian aid, Borrell said the EU would look to step up its help for the Afghan people but would judge the authorities “according to the access they provide”.

The EU is also looking to bolster coordination with Afghanistan’s neighbors as it looks to stave off a large-scale flow of migrants from the country to Europe.

Borrell said that the bloc would look to set up a “regional political platform” with the countries around Afghanistan aimed at helping to stabilize the situation.

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