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Afghanistan's Neighbors Call On Taliban To Ensure Rights; Donor Conference Falls Short Of $4.4 Billion Goal

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Countries attending a conference for Afghanistan's neighbors called on the Taliban "to take necessary measures to ensure women's rights and children's education." (file photo)

A conference involving seven countries that border Afghanistan has called on the Taliban-led government in Kabul to adopt further measures to improve living conditions and guarantee the basic rights of all Afghan people, including women and ethnic minorities.

The conference took place in the eastern Chinese city of Tunxi on March 31, the same day the United Nations held a separate online donor conference hosted by Qatar, Germany, and Britain. The United Nations said 41 international donors had pledged $2.44 billion in humanitarian aid for Afghanistan, falling short of a $4.4 billion target.

In a joint statement issued after the conference in Tunxi, delegations from China, Russia, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan said that the Taliban, which took over the country last August after international forces withdrew, needs to take "more visible measures" to distance itself from terrorist groups.

"Noting the importance of continuing to take necessary measures to ensure women's rights and children's education in Afghanistan, it [the conference] called for further measures to improve people's livelihood and guarantee the basic rights of all Afghan people, including all ethnic groups, women and children," the joint statement said.

"We call on the relevant Afghan authorities to take more visible measures to draw a clear line with various terrorist forces, monitor the trajectory of all terrorist organizations, and resolutely strike and eliminate them by destroying their training camps and other measures to ensure that Afghanistan will no longer become a terrorist organization a breeding ground, a sanctuary and a source of diffusion," it added.

The meeting, the third such event held to discuss Afghanistan and security with its neighbors, discussed the plight of the country, torn apart by more than two decades of war.

Despite taking some steps in the right direction, the statement said Afghanistan's neighbors remain concerned about the "severe humanitarian difficulties" in the country and that the seven nations at the conference would continue "to provide humanitarian assistance for the Afghan people, support Afghanistan's economic reconstruction and self-reliant development, and strengthen regional connectivity."

Most of the world’s nations do not consider the Taliban-led government legitimate amid concerns that the militants are not living up to promises of respecting human rights. However, on March 17, the United Nations Security Council voted for establishing official ties with Afghanistan.

At the online conference, Germany offered additional 200 million euros ($223 million) and the United States offered nearly $204 million.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called on the Taliban-led government to provide unhindered access for humanitarian aid workers and to guarantee their safety.

It is unacceptable that the UN World Food Program (WFP) has been unable to supply the provinces of Kabul, Kandahar, and Ghor, she said.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the new U.S. humanitarian assistance would go to the UN and nongovernmental partners.

"The Taliban will not control our humanitarian funding," Thomas-Greenfield told the conference.

The funds will support direct aid to the more than 22 million people in Afghanistan who are facing extreme food insecurity, she said, pointing out that this accounted for more than half of the country's population.

"The people of Afghanistan have our unequivocal support," she said. "But the Taliban’s ambition to improve its own relations with the international community depends on its conduct."

She cited the Taliban's decision on March 23 to extend a nationwide ban on girls' education beyond sixth grade.

"It is impossible not to feel a sense of profound outrage when we see girls and young women across Afghanistan wracked with tears as they learn they will have to leave their classrooms after all," she said.

With reporting by AFP and dpa
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