Norway hosts Taliban for meetings about pending humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan
United Nations officials have warned about 'tsunami of hunger' in Taliban-led country
A Taliban delegation has arrived in Norway for talks with the Norwegian government and several allied countries on alleviating a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, as well as for meetings with civil society activists and human rights defenders from the country.
The Norwegian Foreign Affairs Ministry said Friday that it invited representatives of the Taliban to Oslo from Sunday to Tuesday.
"These meetings do not represent a legitimization or recognition of the Taliban. But we must talk to the de facto authorities in the country," Foreign Affairs Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said in a statement.
"We cannot allow the political situation to lead to an even worse humanitarian disaster."
Huitfeldt also said economic and political conditions in Afghanistan have created a "full-scale humanitarian catastrophe for millions of people" facing starvation.
Governments globally have been grappling with how to curb a growing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan without formally recognizing the Taliban, which swept to power on Aug. 15, 2021, as foreign forces withdrew.
The head of the United Nations World Food Program warned earlier this month that Afghanistan faces a "tsunami of hunger" as the country teeters on the edge of economic ruin.
The organization said 22.8 million people face acute food shortages, including 8.7 million close to starvation.
Mary-Ellen McGroarty urged the international community to put humanitarian necessity above political discussions and avoid disaster by making sure that billions in aid keep reaching the country.
Rights of women and girls likely on agenda
The rights of women and girls in Afghanistan are likely to feature prominently in the talks, along with the West's recurring demand for the Taliban administration to share power with Afghanistan's minority ethnic and religious groups.
The trip comes as the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan on Saturday called on the Taliban to find two women's rights activists — Tamana Zaryab Paryani and Parawana Ibrahimkhel — who disappeared on Wednesday from Kabul.
"We urge Taliban to provide information on their whereabouts & to protect rights of all Afghans," UNAMA said in a tweet on Saturday. The Taliban have denied any involvement in their disappearance.
The UN shares growing concerns re. disappearance of two Afghan women activists, Tamana Zaryabi Paryani & Parawana Ibrahimkhel, reportedly abducted from their homes overnight Wednesday. We urge Taliban to provide information on their whereabouts & to protect rights of all Afghans. <a href="https://t.co/SKXFVM7Oi9">pic.twitter.com/SKXFVM7Oi9</a>—@UNAMAnews
An eyewitness said that at least 10 armed people claiming to be Taliban intelligence members broke into an apartment on Wednesday in Kabul and arrested Tamana Zaryab Paryani and her three sisters.
The women's rights activist posted a video on social media shortly before they were taken away, showing them frightened, breathless and screaming for help. She said the Taliban were banging on her door.
Paryani was among about 25 women who took part in an anti-Taliban protest last weekend against the compulsory Islamic headscarf, or hijab, for women.
EU re-establishing physical presence in Afghanistan
The European Union said on Friday it was re-establishing a physical presence in Afghanistan for humanitarian purposes but stressed it was not formally recognizing the Taliban-led administration.
It was the first such announcement by a Western power since the 27-nation EU and many governments withdrew staff and diplomats from Afghanistan as Kabul fell to the Taliban.
A Taliban spokesperson for the Foreign Affairs Ministry said earlier in a Tweet that its officials had reached an understanding with the EU, which had "officially opened its embassy with a permanent presence in Kabul & practically commenced operations."
The EU spokesperson stopped short of saying the mission had been formally reopened.
"Our minimal presence in Kabul must not in any way be seen as recognition. This has also been clearly communicated to the de facto authorities," he said.
With files from Reuters