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British Envoy Meets With Taliban Leaders To Discuss Humanitarian Crisis, Treatment Of Women

Taliban officials Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (center) and others met with British High Representative for Afghan Transition Simon Gass (third left) on October 5.

A British special envoy has met with Taliban leaders in Kabul to discuss the current humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, the treatment of women and girls, and ways to prevent the war-wracked country from becoming a breeding ground for terrorism.

Simon Gass, London's representative for Afghan transition, met with Taliban leaders, including acting Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and Abdul Salam Hanafi, a member of the Islamist group's political office in Qatar, the Foreign Office said on October 5.

They discussed how Britain could help Afghanistan “address the humanitarian crisis, the importance of preventing the country from becoming an incubator for terrorism, and the need for continued safe passage for those who want to leave the country," the Foreign Office said.

"They also raised the treatment of minorities and the rights of women and girls,” the Foreign Office said, adding that Glass was joined by Martin Longden, charge d'affaires at the British mission to Afghanistan in Qatar's capital, Doha.

Abdul Qahar Balkhi, spokesman for the ministry of foreign affairs, referred to the meeting in a statement on Twitter saying it focused on discussions about reviving diplomatic relations, humanitarian assistance, and security assurances.

Balkhi said the British delegation told the Taliban leaders that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seeking to build relations with Afghanistan “while taking into account prevailing circumstances."

The Taliban said London "must take positive steps regarding relations and cooperation, and begin a new chapter of constructive relations."

"We expect others to also not work towards weakening our government," he said.

Afghanistan’s new rulers have been courting foreign powers in a bid to restart cash flows to the country, where civil servants and health-care workers have not been paid in months.

Earlier on October 5, French President Emmanuel Macron said he wanted the Group of 20 (G20) major economies to set conditions for recognizing the Taliban-led government, including protections for the rights of women and girls.

After it toppled the internationally recognized government in Kabul in mid-August, the hard-line group claimed it would show more moderation than during its brutal rule from 1996 to 2001.

However, the Taliban-led, all-male government has rolled back the rights of girls and women in recent weeks.

Girls have been excluded from returning to secondary schools and the vast majority of women have been ordered not to return to work.

Speaking to France-Inter radio on October 5 ahead of an extraordinary G20 summit on Afghanistan later this month in Rome, Macron said global powers should tell the Taliban: “You must absolutely give young girls in your country a future, and that is one of the things that we will look at before recognizing you.”

Other conditions for recognition should be that the Taliban allow continued humanitarian operations and refuse to cooperate with “Islamist terrorist groups” in the region, the French president said.

Macron said it shouldn't be only Western powers setting such conditions, but they should also “convince regional powers, powers that don’t necessarily have the same values as we do on all issues, to act together.”

With reporting by AP, AFP, and dpa