Taliban warn EU, US envoys of Afghan refugees if sanctions persist

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Afghanistan’s new Taliban government has warned US and European envoys that continued attempts to pressure them through sanctions will undermine security and could trigger a wave of economic refugees.

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Acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi told Western diplomats at talks in Doha that “weakening the Afghan government is not in the interest of anyone because its negative effects will directly affect the world in (the) security sector and economic migration from the country,” according to a statement published late Tuesday.

The Taliban overthrew Afghanistan’s former US-backed government in August after a two-decade-long conflict, declaring its leadership under its hardline interpretation of religious law.

But efforts to stabilize the country, still facing attacks from rival extremist ISIS, have been undermined by international sanctions: banks are running out of cash and civil servants are going unpaid.

According to the statement from his spokesman, Muttaqi told the Doha meeting: “We urge world countries to end existing sanctions and let banks operate normally so that charity groups, organizations and the government can pay salaries to their staff with their own reserves and international financial assistance.”

European countries in particular are concerned that if the Afghan economy collapses, large numbers of migrants will set off for the continent, piling pressure on neighboring states such as Pakistan and Iran and eventually on EU borders.

Washington and the EU have said they are ready to back humanitarian initiatives in Afghanistan, but are wary of providing direct support to the Taliban without guarantees it will respect human rights, in particular women’s rights.

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