A Taliban delegation is in Geneva for talks with Swiss officials and NGOs on humanitarian access and human rights, Switzerland’s foreign ministry said Tuesday.
The delegation from Afghanistan’s new rulers is due to hold talks with the Red Cross and other non-governmental organisations in the Swiss city, which is also home to several United Nations agencies.
“The members of the delegation will have discussions around humanitarian access to populations in need, the protection of humanitarian actors and respect for human rights,” a foreign ministry spokesperson told AFP.
“The protection of children during conflicts and the management of land contaminated by mines are also on the agenda of the conferences, which take place in a confidential setting.”
The spokesperson said that Swiss ministry representatives would meet the delegation this week.
However, she stressed that their delegation’s presence on Swiss territory “does not represent a legitimisation or recognition of the Taliban”.
Also read: Taliban’s search for legitimacy
Since the Taliban hardline movement seized control in mid-August as the United States ended its 20-year war in Afghanistan, the country has plunged into financial chaos, with inflation and unemployment surging.
The halting of aid following the Taliban takeover has triggered a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, which has already been devastated by decades of war.
The Taliban are inching closer towards international recognition, but any concessions Afghanistan’s new rulers make will be on their terms, the regime’s foreign minister said in an interview with AFP last week.
In his first interview since returning from talks with Western powers in Oslo, Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi also urged Washington to unlock Afghanistan’s assets to help ease the humanitarian crisis.
No country has formally recognised the government installed after the Taliban seized power.
But Muttaqi told AFP that Afghanistan’s new rulers were slowly gaining international acceptance.
Also read: Taliban closer to international recognition, says foreign minister
“On the process of getting recognition… we have come closer to that goal,” he said.
Switzerland’s ATS news agency reported that the delegation was being led by Latifullah Hakimi and numbers around 10 people.
Hakimi is a senior official at the Taliban defence ministry. He heads a commission formed by the Taliban government to identify members who were flouting the hardline movement’s regulations.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said it would hold talks with the delegation from the so-called Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA).
“The ICRC has a long-standing relationship with the IEA. This dialogue is essential in order to fulfill our strictly neutral and impartial humanitarian mission,” a spokesman said.
“We will continue this dialogue with the high-level IEA delegation in Geneva this week and look forward to constructive discussions.”
Also read: Former Taliban hostage urges world to engage with Afghan rulers
ATS said that the Taliban delegation had been invited by the Geneva Call NGO, which works to protect civilians during conflict.
The withdrawal of international forces and rapid takeover by the Taliban “are game changers in Afghanistan, where overlapping armed conflicts, Covid-19 and its socioeconomic consequences, and extreme weather have already created a complex emergency”, it said on its website.
“The humanitarian community will need to quickly adapt how they work to save lives and protect civilians already subject to dramatically declining socioeconomic conditions and insecurity.”
Representatives from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the foreign ministry’s Peace and Human Rights Division and its Asia and Pacific Division are also due to meet the delegation this week.
“Afghanistan is facing a complex emergency situation due to armed conflicts, Covid-19 and its socioeconomic consequences, as well as extreme weather conditions,” the foreign ministry spokeswoman said.
“Today, 23 million Afghans are at risk of malnutrition and a large majority of the population lives below the poverty line.”