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EU Considers Reopening Mission To Afghanistan, But No Taliban Recognition

A spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Josef Borrell, pictured here on October 21, said the EU is looking establish a minimal presence on the ground in Afghanistan.

The European Union is considering reopening its diplomatic mission to Afghanistan, but it has no plans of officially recognizing the Taliban administration, an EU spokeswoman told RFE/RL.

"The idea is, and what the EU is working for right now, is to establish a minimal presence on the ground," Nabila Massrali, a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, told RFE/RL on October 26.

The Financial Times reported on October 24 that the EU intends to reopen its diplomatic representation in Afghanistan within a month amid international efforts to find ways to deal with the country’s new Taliban rulers.

Massrali did not give a precise time frame, but reiterated that re-establishing a presence in Afghanistan would not amount to official recognition by the 27-member bloc of the new Taliban administration that seized power in August amid the withdrawal of the U.S.-led forces from the war-torn country.

"For security reasons, of course, we cannot enter into details about when. What’s important though is to remind you that as we have repeatedly said, this is not a sign of recognition," Massrali said.

Massrali added that establishing an EU presence on the ground would allow better assistance to Afghans in need and would also provide assistance to EU and Afghan nationals who want to leave the country.

"We want to be able to better assist the Afghan people who need our help by being close, and inevitably we need to engage with the Taliban to facilitate the safe passage of the EU citizens and Afghans at risk or to ensure the continued access of humanitarian aid," Massrali said.

At a G20 summit on October 12, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that the EU has pledged 1 billion euros in aid for Afghanistan "to avert a major humanitarian and socio-economic collapse."

But disbursing the aid is conditional on the Taliban respecting five benchmarks set by the bloc in September for further operational engagement: preventing Afghanistan from again becoming a breeding ground for terrorism; respect for human rights, rule of law, and guarantees for media freedom; allowing other political forces into a transitional government; granting free access to humanitarian aid respecting EU procedures and conditions for delivery; and granting free passage to those who want to leave the country.

Massrali told RFE/RL that those five conditions must be met before resuming regular development aid.

"It's very important to say that regular EU development aid to Afghanistan remains frozen," Massrali said.

"The five agreed engagements by the EU foreign affairs remain valid. They must be met before regular development cooperation can resume," she said, adding that the 1 billion euros in aid will not go to the Taliban.

"It goes through international organizations and NGOs on the ground but not through the Taliban," Massrali said, adding that the EU and its international partners, including the United Nations, are discussing "the best way forward for the humanitarian approach" while making sure there would be no diversion of funds to the Taliban.

"The details will be worked out in the coming weeks and months," Massrali said.