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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Qatar’s FM meets new Taliban leadership in first Kabul trip since takeover

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Doha has been a bridge between the Taliban and world powers eager to hold talks with the group since the Afghanistan takeover. 

Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani met with the new Taliban leadership and members of the former Afghan government in Kabul on Sunday, in the most senior visit to the country since the group’s takeover of the country.

During a meeting with the Taliban-appointed Afghan Prime Minister Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund and several other members of the new interim government, Sheikh Mohammed discussed “bilateral relations” and Qatar’s humanitarian assistance to the country, according to local Tolo News.

“The meeting focused on bilateral relations, humanitarian assistance, economic development and interaction with the world,” Doha-based Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen added.

The Taliban official also praised the Doha Agreement, initially signed in February last year, as a “landmark achievement” while calling on all sides to “adhere to its implementation”.

Qatar’s foreign ministry [MOFA] also said the officials discussed means to promote peace in Afghanistan as well as the reopening of Kabul airport, which has seen resumed operations  following assistance from Qatari and Turkish technical teams, as per Taliban request.

“The two sides stressed the importance of concerted efforts to combat terrorist organisations that threaten the stability of Afghanistan,” read MOFA’s statement.

In a separate meeting, Sheikh Mohammed met with members of the former Afghan government who remained in Kabul while others fled. This includes former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation of Afghanistan Abdullah Abdullah.

The Qatari diplomat reiterated the importance of forming an inclusive government that allows the engagement of all Afghan parties as part of national reconciliation efforts.

“We thanked the State of Qatar for hosting the peace talks, & supporting peace & stability in Afghanistan. HE while reiterating the continuity of Qatar’s support to AFG, stated that they value the ideas of the host in their efforts to help Afghanistan,” tweeted Abdullah.

Over the last few years, Qatar has been hosting the Afghan peace process in efforts to resolve decades of conflict between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Following the Taliban’s takeover on 15 August, reports said members of the former government sought temporary asylum in Doha, but there have been no updates on this matter since then.

The Taliban unveiled a new government last week, with Akhund serving as the new prime minister and the group’s co-founder, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar assuming the position of his deputy.

Speaking at the announcement on 7 September, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, who is also the deputy information and culture minister, said there are other seats in the administration who have yet to be appointed.

Despite promises by the Taliban to form an inclusive government amid international calls to ensure all Afghan parties are included, the newly-announced administration consists of mainly Taliban and Haqqani members.

There was also no mention of a replacement for the former Ministry of Women’s Affairs, nor the inclusion of any women in the new administration.

Meanwhile, Qatar has managed to safely evacuate over 50,000 Afghans and foreigners from Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover. Most of the evacuees have now reached their final destinations through Doha, where they were temporarily accommodated at either the US’ Al Udeid Air Base or one of the residential compounds in the Gulf state.

In recent weeks, several nations have asked Qatar to host their Kabul embassies, including the US, the UK, the Netherlands, Japan and Italy.


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