Afghanistan: Qatar calls on Taliban to cooperate in fighting terrorism

Abu Dhabi: Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, urged the Taliban on Tuesday to combat terrorism after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, and called for an inclusive government.

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“We stressed the importance of cooperation to combat terrorism … and we stressed the importance of the Taliban showing cooperation in this field,” he told a joint press conference with his German counterpart, Heiko Maas.

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The minister added: “Our role is to always urge them to have an expanded government that includes all parties and not to exclude any party.

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“During our talks with the Taliban, there was no negative or positive response.”

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On Tuesday, Taliban fighters celebrated their victory in Afghanistan after the last US soldiers left, ending a devastating 20-year war and opening a new chapter in the country’s history.

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The Americans entered Afghanistan in 2001 at the head of an international coalition to expel the Taliban from power because of its refusal to hand over Al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden after the September 11 attacks.

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The international community and European countries in particular fear that extremist groups will take advantage of events to regroup after the withdrawal of foreign forces.

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For his part, Maas said there is no alternative to holding talks with the Taliban, which has become the de facto ruling group in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of US forces.

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“Personally, I believe that there is absolutely no alternative to holding talks with the Taliban … for a practical solution to issues such as the continued operation of the airport in Kabul,’ he said.

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“But also because we absolutely can’t stand the instability in Afghanistan, because that would help terrorism and have a huge negative impact on neighboring countries,” he added.

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EU countries are trying to reach a deal to help Afghanistan’s neighbours hosting refugees fleeing the Taliban, and to harmonise reception standards on the continent in order to avoid an influx similar to that of 2015.

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In the wake of the US withdrawal, the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain, Turkey, Qatar, the European Union and NATO are in talks to decide how to proceed with the evacuation of people wishing to leave the country.

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No country has yet recognised the Taliban regime, which imposed strict social rules during its previous rule between 1996 and 2001.

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As for relations with the Taliban at this stage, Maas said in Doha that “we are not looking at issues of official recognition, but we want to solve the problems that exist with regard to people in Afghanistan, German citizens and local employees, who want to leave the country.”

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Qatar’s Foreign Minister said that the issue of reopening the airport is “one of the most important issues for Afghanistan to achieve one of the commitments mentioned by the Taliban in the past to allow freedom of movement.”

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He added that the airport issue “has been in the discussion phase and in the assessment phase, and there are many things that need to be evaluated, whether in terms of security or technical, and we cannot judge today whether we can help in that or not, but that will become clear in the coming days.”

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Doha has facilitated meetings between the militants and the Afghan government for several months.

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Likewise, Qatar, along with the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain, played a key role in organising evacuation flights for citizens of Western countries, as well as Afghan translators and journalists, among others.

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Britain and the United States said they would run their Afghan missions from Doha, which hosts an office for the Taliban.

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