EU to return to Kabul for talks with Taliban
The European Union is not ready to lose its geopolitical weight in Afghanistan. Following the evacuation of the last person from his diplomatic delegation, shortly before the final withdrawal of US troops on August 31, he decided it was time to return to Kabul to keep his boots on the ground. The decision, agreed between the 27 during an informal Council of Foreign Ministers held in Kranj (Slovenia), will be accompanied by an inevitable “operational” contact with the Taliban regime, as announced this Friday during the meeting of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell.
The head of European diplomacy described these links as “necessary” to coordinate an upcoming evacuation of the thousands of people who were trapped and abandoned in Afghan territory, after the chaotic stampede of the Western allies. But in no case will this mean the recognition of the new government, he stressed.
The European presence and relations with the new power in Kabul will be calibrated by the EU according to five criteria on which it will establish and judge relations with the new authorities in power: the commitment of the Afghan government not to serve as a territorial base. for the export of terrorism to other countries; respect for human rights, in particular those of women; the establishment of an inclusive and representative government resulting from negotiations between the different political forces; free and safe access to humanitarian aid and respect for the Taliban’s commitment to allow Afghans and foreigners who so wish to leave the country freely by land or air, in accordance with a recent Security Council resolution of the UN, approved with the abstentions of China and Russia. Contacts with the new government will depend on meeting these criteria.
“We all agreed today that Europe must and will play a role in Afghanistan,” said Heiko Maas, German Foreign Minister after the meeting, stressing that the EU will pay attention to respect for rights human rights, especially women’s rights. women and girls. “We are ready to discuss with the Taliban on this basis and to bring humanitarian aid to the formation of the government”, he added, on condition that this future executive is “made up of the majority of the population”. However, he called for caution in judging the new regime, something the EU must value “for its actions and not for its words”.
The European return to Afghanistan will be articulated through a “common EU presence” in Kabul, coordinated by the European External Action Service (EEAS), and therefore under the leadership of Borrell. It will not be a delegation or an embassy. And although the details of the precise formula and composition of this landing have not been given, an internal document of European diplomacy, the content of which has been put forward by MRT, considers that in the absence of a “full diplomatic presence”, they should be considered “innovative models” To ensure local representation of the EU in Kabul. “For example, a humanitarian office, or a European representative office”, proposed the text.
The document warned with concern of the risks for the geopolitical weight of Europe not to be present in the next negotiations: “The diplomatic presence in Kabul of the EU and its member states will be very limited or non-existent, at least in the short term. term, ”he confirmed. “This represents a significant challenge in terms of information gathering and our ability to influence events on the ground, leaving the field open to China, Iran, Pakistan, Qatar and Russia, who will maintain their presence. in Kabul. “
At present, neither the EU nor the Member States have staff from their diplomatic delegations in Afghanistan. The European mission, evacuated via Madrid, is in Brussels. Together, the 27 managed to get 17,500 people out of the country, including 520 EU staff and their families, according to figures from the European External Action Service. But there are still “several hundred, thousands” of people impossible to get out of the country, as Borrell explains; certain nationals of Member States, or Afghans in danger and whom the 27 intend to remove from the country by air. “We know who they are, we know them, they work with us or they worked for a free and democratic Afghanistan,” said the Spaniard, for whom such an operation would not be possible without “talking” to the Taliban. . . “It’s easier to talk to someone you’re in the same city with than by videoconference,” he assumed. If the security situation in Kabul does not reach minimums, Doha (Qatar) will be valued as a possible center of operations for the disembarkation.
It will now be the Member States who will set, on a voluntary basis, the number of people they are willing to welcome, which, for the moment, seems to have been defined only by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, ensuring that until 40,000 Afghans the right to be evacuated to Berlin The operation, in any case, will be coordinated by the joint European team, under the orders of the EEAS.
The EU believes that the dire situation of the Afghan economy will play a key role in meeting these conditions. Central bank assets were frozen, the population suffered decades of war, in addition to the COVID hit and severe drought. So far, three quarters of the Afghan government’s budget has come from foreign aid. And Brussels, which did not freeze humanitarian aid but froze development-related packages, is aware that the financial and liquidity problem facing the Taliban can be a good bargaining chip. “We are ready to help under certain conditions,” Borrell said during his appearance, dragging the five criteria off the list. The amounts of European aid could be calibrated according to their degree of compliance.
The 27 also instructed the head of European diplomacy to create a regional platform for cooperation with the neighboring countries of Afghanistan, with which to jointly face the migratory flows, drug trafficking and terrorism that should destabilize the region.
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