Taliban, Western officials begin talks in Oslo with focus on frozen assets
Representatives of Afghanistan’s Taliban-led interim government and Western diplomats have held three-day talks in Oslo to discuss the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian crisis in the country and push for the release of assets frozen by the US and its allies.
According to Press TV, the closed-door meeting on Monday between the Taliban delegation led by the group’s top diplomat Amir Khan Muttaqi and representatives of the US, France, Germany, Italy, the UK, Norway and the European Union comes as millions of people in the crisis-stricken country stare at death and starvation.
Taliban officials have sought the release of international aid worth billions of dollars that was blocked by the US and its allies following their botched exit from the South Asian country August last year.
"We are requesting them to unfreeze Afghan assets and not punish ordinary Afghans because of the political discourse," Taliban delegate Shafiullah Azam was on Sunday quoted as saying by the AP.
"Because of the starvation, because of the deadly winter, I think it's time for the international community to support Afghans, not punish them because of their political disputes."
Western countries have tied the humanitarian assistance to observance of human rights and formation of an inclusive government in Kabul.
"As we seek to address humanitarian crisis together with allies, partners, and relief orgs, we will continue clear-eyed diplomacy with the Taliban regarding our concerns and our abiding interest in a stable, rights-respecting and inclusive Afghanistan," the US Special Envoy for Afghanistan, Thomas West, stated in a Twitter post on Sunday, clearly aimed at setting the ground rules for the talks.
Since last August, international aid, which financed nearly 80 percent of the war-ravaged country’s budget, has been suspended and Washington has frozen nearly $9.5 billion in assets belonging to Afghanistan’s Central Bank, contributing to the pitiable plight of millions of Afghans.