Taliban delegation to hold talks in Norway

Taliban delegation to hold talks in Norway

A Taliban delegation plans to travel to Norway for talks with the Norwegian government and several of its allies, as well as meetings with civil society activists and human rights activists from Afghanistan.

The Norwegian Foreign Ministry said on Friday that it had invited Taliban officials to Oslo from January 23 to 25, the Associated Press reported.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt stressed that the visit “is not legitimization or recognition of the Taliban. But we must speak with those who in practice govern the country today.”

“We are extremely concerned about the serious situation in Afghanistan,” Huitfeldt said, noting that economic and political conditions have created a “full-scale humanitarian catastrophe for millions of people” who are at risk of starvation in the country.

Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaki will lead the Taliban delegation to Norway. They have previously visited Russia, Iran, Qatar, Pakistan, China and Turkmenistan.

Zabihullah Mujahid, Afghan deputy minister of culture and information, said Muttaki expects to hold separate meetings with the US delegation and bilateral talks with European representatives.

The rights of women and girls in Afghanistan are likely to feature prominently in the negotiations, along with the West's repeated demand for the Taliban administration to share power with Afghanistan's ethnic and religious minorities.

Mujahid said earlier that the new Afghan rulers intend to open schools for girls and women at the end of March, after the Afghan New Year.

Norway's foreign ministry said the Taliban delegation's meetings with the Afghans in Oslo would involve "women leaders, journalists and people who deal with, among other things, human rights and humanitarian, economic, social and political issues."

Muttaki is expected to recall the Taliban's demand for the release of nearly $10 billion frozen by the United States and other Western countries. The United Nations was able to provide some liquidity and allow the new Afghan administration to pay for imports, including electricity.

The UN has warned that 1 million Afghan children are at risk of starvation, and most of the country's 38 million people live below the poverty line.

Earlier this week, a Norwegian delegation visited Kabul for talks on the precarious humanitarian situation in the country.

"Norway continues to engage in dialogue with the Taliban to promote human rights, women's participation in society, and to strengthen humanitarian and economic measures in Afghanistan in support of the Afghan people," the country's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.