Taliban warns UN over Afghanistan talks exclusion

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres held a second day of talks with world powers Tuesday on how to deal with Afghanistan’s Taliban leaders amid warnings from the Kabul administration that the meeting could be “counter-productive”.The talks in Doha were arranged by Guterres after the Taliban government banned Afghan women from working for the United Nations, prompting the world body to put its huge relief operations in Afghanistan under review.

Women are also banned from working for other NGOs, and are barred from almost all secondary and university education and most government jobs.

The talks involve envoys from the United States, Russia, China and 20 other countries and organisations, including major European donors and neighbours such as Pakistan, but exclude the Taliban government.

“Any meeting without the participation of IEA (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) representatives — the main party to the issue — is unproductive and even sometimes counter-productive,” said the head of the Taliban political office in Doha, Suhail Shaheen.

“How can a decision taken at such meetings be acceptable or implemented while we are not part of the process? It is discriminatory and unjustified,” he said.

Meanwhile, Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi will lead a delegation to Islamabad at the end of the week for talks with Pakistani and Chinese officials, the ministry said Tuesday.

Muttaqi, who is subject to a UN travel ban, has previously been given exemptions to travel to the neighbouring country for talks.

The UN Security Council last week unanimously condemned the ban on its Afghan women staff, which the world body says has seriously threatened its efforts to aid the population.

Women’s groups staged protests on Saturday fearing the Doha meeting could propose steps toward recognition of the Taliban administration that returned to power in August 2021.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Monday however that “is not up for discussion” at the talks, which are being held behind closed doors.

The meeting would discuss human rights, including women’s rights, Afghanistan’s governance and ways to counter terrorism and drug trafficking, Djurric said.

Guterres wants “a common understanding with the international community on how to engage with the Taliban on these issues”, he added.

The UN review of its Afghanistan operation is due to be completed on Friday. The world body has said it faces an “appalling choice” on whether to stay in the country.