Taliban to press international community on Afghanistan sanctions

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Taliban authorities said Monday they would press the international community over economic sanctions as they attended a UN-hosted summit in Doha with special representatives to Afghanistan for the first time.

The two-day meeting began on Sunday and is the third such summit to be held in Qatar in a little over a year, but the first to include the Taliban authorities who seized power in Afghanistan in 2021.

Writing on X, formerly Twitter, senior foreign ministry official Zakir Jalaly said the Taliban government delegation would use Monday’s meetings to address “financial and banking sanctions” and the “challenges” these pose to Afghanistan’s economy.

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His statement followed an opening salvo late Sunday by the head of the Taliban delegation, spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, as he addressed more than 20 envoys and UN officials.

“Afghans are asking why they are being ganged up on, on the basis of unilateral and multilateral sanctions,” Mujahid said as he questioned whether ongoing sanctions were “fair practice” after “wars and insecurity for almost half a century as a result of foreign invasions and interference.”

The talks are being held to discuss increasing engagement with the impoverished country of more than 40 million and a more coordinated response, including economic issues and counter-narcotics efforts.

In the aftermath of the Taliban’s return to power, the international community has wrestled with its approach to Afghanistan’s new rulers.

The Taliban government in Kabul has not been officially recognized by any other government since it took power.

It has imposed a strict interpretation of Islam, with women subjected to laws characterized by the UN as “gender apartheid.”

The inclusion of a Taliban delegation but the exclusion of civil society and women’s rights groups sparked outrage, with organizations accusing the UN and attendees of legitimizing Taliban government policies.

“Caving into the Taliban’s conditions to secure their participation in the talks would risk legitimizing their gender-based institutionalized system of oppression,” Amnesty International chief Agnes Callamard said in a statement ahead of the talks.

The Taliban authorities have repeatedly said the rights of all citizens are guaranteed under Islamic law.

Mujahid said diplomats should “find ways of interaction and understanding rather than confrontation,” despite “natural” differences in policy.

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is keen on engaging constructively with Western nations as well,” Mujahid said.

“Like any sovereign state, we uphold certain religious and cultural values and public aspirations that must be acknowledged.”

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