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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Netherlands latest to request relocation of Kabul embassy to Doha


Qatar and the Netherlands stressed the importance of ensuring the Taliban respects women’s rights in Afghanistan.

The Netherlands has asked Qatar to host the Dutch embassy in Doha instead of Kabul, Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag told a press conference in the Gulf state on Wednesday.

“I’ve asked his excellency very kindly agree to the relocation of the Netherlands embassy from Kabul to Doha,” Kaag told the press following a meeting with her Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.

During the presser, Kaag and Sheikh Mohammed stressed the need to continue to engage with the Taliban to ensure the safe transfer of power and establish an “inclusive” government in Afghanistan.

Taliban says formation of new Afghan government in ‘final stages’

The two foreign ministers also discussed the importance of ensuring the rights of Afghan women are protected.

“We continue the dialogue with the Taliban on an ongoing basis that there is a rationalisation of their policy and discourse towards women,” said Qatar’s foreign ministry, noting that women’s rights was at the top of the agenda at all talks between Afghan parties.

There have been concerns regarding women’s rights since the Taliban took over Kabul on 15 August, with many left fearing for their future and anxious over a repeat of the oppressive Taliban rule that governed Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001.

However, the insurgent group has attempted to quell those concerns since capturing power, vowing to allow women access to work and education “under Islamic sharia rulings”.

On the evacuations of Afghans and foreigners, Sheikh Mohammed and Kaag said the resumption of operations at Kabul airport remains a priority to enable the safe departure of civilians.

“Qatar continuously works to ease the communication and departure of foreign nationals and Afghans from Afghanistan whether they are subject to threats or want to leave the country,” said Sheikh Mohammed.

The Dutch government previously said it had evacuated 2,500 people from Afghanistan since the Taliban seized Kabul, of which 1,600 have already been repatriated to the Netherlands.

The rapid takeover and unravelling developments have also triggered concerns over the humanitarian situation, with the World Food Programme [WFP] warning that 14 million Afghans, one-third of the population, face food insecurity.

Commenting on the urgent need for aid, the two diplomats emphasised the importance of continuing to provide Afghans with humanitarian assistance to tackle the worsening situation on the ground in the country.

“Qatar will remain committed to working with [NGO’s] in ensuring aid is delivered to those who need it,” said Sheikh Mohammed.

WATCH: EXCLUSIVE: One-on-one with Suhail Shaheen, Taliban spokesperson

Meanwhile, Kaag praised Qatar’s “role behind the scenes and on the world stage” in Afghanistan, applauding its facilitating of the Afghan peace process over the last years to its recent mass evacuation efforts.

The press conference on Wednesday came just a day after Washington ended its military presence 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.”

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.

Japan also asked Qatar on Tuesday to move its Kabul embassy to Doha and the UK has already announced the relocation of its diplomatic mission to the Gulf state.

Since the Taliban’s takeover and the departure of former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Afghanistan has been left with no governing body.

However, senior Taliban member Anas Haqqani told Al Jazeera that the formation of a new Afghan government is now in its final stages and will be announced in “a few days”.

“We have covered about 90 to 95 percent and we will announce the final outcome in the following few days,” said Haqqani, noting that it was still early to mention the names of new cabinet members.

The Taliban has been holding talks with members of the former Afghan government since seizing power militarily. Among the politicians involved in negotiations are former Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, and the Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah.

The international community have been calling on the militants to ensure that the new government is inclusive.

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