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Thursday, January 27, 2022

German FM in Qatar says recognition of Taliban ‘not priority’, urges engagement with group


Germany said it is working on the resumption of aid to Afghanistan after a temporary halt that came days after the Taliban captured Kabul.

Qatar and Germany said that they will continue to engage with the Taliban to ensure the establishment of an inclusive government, though the German foreign minister ruled out immediate recognition of the Taliban.

In a press conference in the Qatari capital just hours after the US formally ended its diplomatic and military presence in Afghanistan, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and his German counterpart Heiko Maas stressed the importance of working to avoid a humanitarian crisis in the country.

Despite being one of the first countries to halt its humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, Germany’s FM said his country is willing to provide humanitarian assistance to the country.

Since the Taliban seized power through military means, there have been debates over international recognition of the militant group.

However, Germany’s Maas on Tuesday said recognising the insurgent group it is not a priority at the moment, though stressed the importance of engaging to enable the resumption of operations at Kabul airport.

US formally ends 20 year Afghanistan invasion, moves embassy to Qatar

“Recognising the Taliban is not on our priority agenda, and we believe that dealing with [the Taliban] may lead to positive results,” said Maas.

Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani noted that isolating the Taliban is not the proper response to the situation, pointing towards how such isolation in the past led to current consequences.

“If we are starting to put conditions and stopping this engagement [with the Taliban], we are going to leave a vacuum and the question is going to be ‘who is going to fill this vacuum’,” said Sheikh Mohammed.

However, the two agreed on the “need for the Taliban to cooperate in the fight against terrorism”.

“Afghanistan is going through a critical stage, and the Taliban must show cooperation in combating terrorism,” said Sheikh Mohammed.

Global support essential

Earlier, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel said German aid workers have remained in Afghanistan, where thousands of Afghans and foreign nationals have been evacuated as part of a mass airlift in the past two weeks.

“For us the focus at the moment is local staff and that’s not 300 people, that’s probably more like 10-40,000 people, and we will have to see how many of them want to leave the country and how many not,” said Merkel.

Commenting on the remaining personnel in Afghanistan, Maas said the challenges have not ended in terms of military evacuations, noting more people need to depart the country.

“Afghan human rights defenders and journalists are in danger and we have offered them to come to Germany,” said Maas.

“All parties understand that without international cooperation they will not be able to control this highly complicated situation,” said Maas.

Commenting on Qatar’s role in the Afghan peace process, Sheikh Mohammed said his country will continue to work on ensuring that an inclusive government is formed in Afghanistan “without sidelining any party”.

“There were no positive nor negative responses during our talks with the Taliban,” he added.

With military operations at the Hamid Karzai International Airport coming to an end, Qatar has been working along with its allies to ensure the civilian part of the airport resumes its operations.

“Freedom of movement and mobility is one of the most important indicators of the return to normalcy in Afghanistan,” said Sheikh Mohammed..

German troops completed and finalised a troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in June, ending its deadliest military mission since the second World War.

Some 570 soldiers from Afghanistan were sent home as part of the German troop withdrawal.

Germany had the second largest troop presence in Afghanistan after the US, which deployed up to 150,000 soldiers over the past two decades. At least 59 German soldiers died during the war, mainly due to militant attacks or in combat.

Late on Monday, Washington ended its military presence just hours ahead of its 31 August deadline, with Major General Chris Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, being the last American soldier to leave the country.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that Washington suspended its diplomatic presence in Afghanistan and confirmed all diplomatic operations will be conducted from Qatar instead, while continuing to push for the safe evacuation of people from Kabul.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council approved a resolution offered by France, the US and UK aimed at allowing the continuation of evacuations past the deadline by both air and ground “including at the reopened and secured Kabul airport, with no one preventing them from traveling.”

In total, 13 of the representatives voted in favour of the resolution, with two abstentions.

The council also called for “strengthened efforts” to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.

US President Joe Biden has been facing global criticism for his decision to withdraw all foreign troops from Afghanistan after 20 years without a proper peace plan nor a strategised evacuation process.

As a strategic ally and host of the Taliban’s political office, several countries reached out to Qatar to assist in the fast-paced evacuations and to hold talks with the militant group in order to ensure the safety of evacuees in Kabul.

German’s foreign minister praised Qatar’s role in ensuring the safe evacuations were carried out before the 31 August deadline.

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