The Taliban are holding their first talks in Europe since the capture of Afghanistan

Oslo, Norway (AP) – The Taliban and Western diplomats have begun their first official talks in Europe since the capture of Afghanistan in August.

Closed door junctions took place at a hotel in the snow-capped mountains above the Norwegian capital.

Taliban representatives will insist on the release of nearly $ 10 billion frozen by the United States and other Western nations as Afghanistan faces a dangerous humanitarian situation.

Taliban spokesman Shafiullah Assam said Sunday night that “we urge them to freeze their assets in Afghanistan because of their political rhetoric and not to punish ordinary Afghans.” “Because of the famine and the deadly winter, I think it’s time for the international community to support the Afghans and not punish them for their political conflicts.”

Prior to the talks, Western diplomats met with women rights activists and human rights activists in Afghanistan to assess their demands and the current situation on the ground. The meeting was attended by representatives from the European Union, the United States, Britain, France, Italy and Norway.

Heda Kamosh, a women’s rights activist living in Kabul, had photos of two women, Tamana Saryabi Baryani and Parwana Ibrahimkel, who were arrested by the Taliban. Following the anti-Taliban struggle against forced Islamic helmets or hijab for women last week. Missing them after that.

Assam has denied allegations that the Taliban abducted them, saying it “did not know about it” and that activists could use the incident to seek asylum.

The three-day talks began on Sunday with direct meetings between the Taliban and civil society representatives.

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The Taliban’s caretaker foreign minister told reporters on Monday that the meeting with Afghanistan’s civil society was not a negotiation but a constructive exchange. The country’s new rulers have been heavily criticized for their tough approach to security, dispersing female protesters with pepper spray, firing in the air, intimidating and beating journalists and coming in at night to arrest anti-government protesters.

The Taliban were criticized for establishing an interim cabinet consisting of all men and the Taliban. Most are Pashtuns. Subsequent Afghan organizations and the international community have urged the Taliban to open up government to non-Taliban, as well as expose the strong views of ethnic and religious minorities and women.

Mutaki said most of the returning civil servants were from the previous government and that about 15,000 women were working in the health and education sectors. He said no decision has been taken yet on the presence of more women in government jobs.

“We did not fire anyone,” he said. “It’s progress, but certainly not enough.”

Talks with European and American representatives were expected to cover everything from education to humanitarian aid.

Mutaki said he had a message for Afghans and the international community:

“Our message is that the Afghans are at peace after 40 years of war. The war is over, and now is the time for progress and economic action. . . We want the Afghans to be happy after all these years of suffering. We want good relations with the world, with our neighbors, with European countries. . . We have made good results and progress in our meetings.

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Women’s rights activist Mahbooba Seraj acknowledged the progress. “Yes, they were listening. I have to say it, ”she said Monday morning. “We gave them a piece of paper. We asked them what we wanted. Picked up. They were so passionate about it.

These talks are coming at a very important time for Afghanistan Frostbite exacerbates the tragedy from the downward spiral that came with the fall of the US-backed government and the Taliban takeover.

Aid groups and international agencies estimate that about 23 million people, more than half of the country, are facing severe hunger and nearly 9 million are on the brink of starvation. People are involved in buying groceries to buy food, burning furniture for warmth and selling their children. The United Nations was able to provide some cash flow and allowed the Taliban administration to pay for imports, including electricity.

In the face of the Taliban’s financial demands, Western powers are likely to put the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan high on their agenda, with the West repeatedly urging the Taliban administration to share power with Afghanistan’s ethnic and religious groups.

Since coming to power in mid-August, the Taliban have imposed widespread restrictions, many of which have targeted women. Women are prohibited from engaging in multiple jobs outside the health and education sectors, are prohibited from studying beyond the sixth grade, and are ordered to wear the hijab. However, the Taliban stopped imposing the burqa, which was mandatory when they ruled Afghanistan in the 1990s.

The Taliban have targeted and sometimes beaten up television groups collecting protests, targeting besieged rights groups and journalists in Afghanistan.

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In a tweet on Monday, US Special Envoy to Afghanistan Tom West welcomed the talks between the Taliban and civil society representatives in the country, saying, “We will pursue clear diplomacy with the Taliban regarding our concerns and our respect for our sustainable rights.” Including Afghanistan. “

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Rahim Faiz and Kathy Cannon contributed to the report from Islamabad.

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