US: Taliban's Doha Talks Were 'Honest And Professional'
Taliban representatives asked the US to relax an embargo on Afghan central bank reserves, Afghanistan's acting foreign minister told Al Jazeera on Saturday.
The US stated on Sunday that the first face-to-face meeting between senior US and Taliban officials since the hardline organisation retook power in Afghanistan was "candid and professional," and that the US side reaffirmed that the Taliban will be assessed on their actions, not just their words.
According to State Department spokesman Ned Price, the US delegation focused on security and terrorism concerns, as well as safe passage for U.S. citizens, other foreign nationals, and Afghans, as well as human rights, including meaningful participation of women and girls in all aspects of Afghan society, during weekend talks in Doha, Qatar. The two sides also talked about "the United States' provision of significant humanitarian assistance, directly to the Afghan people," according to him.
In a statement, Price said, "The discussions were honest and professional, with the US delegation stressing that the Taliban will be assessed on its deeds, not just its words." It did not specify whether any agreements had been reached. On Saturday, Afghanistan's acting foreign minister was quoted by Qatar-based Al Jazeera television as stating that Taliban representatives had asked the US to relax an embargo on Afghan central bank reserves.
The minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, was also quoted as saying that Washington would supply coronavirus vaccines to Afghans and that the two countries discussed "opening a new page" between them. Officials from the Biden administration told Reuters on Friday that the US team would encourage the Taliban to release American Mark Frerichs, who has been kidnapped. Another key goal would be to hold the Taliban to their promise not to let al Qaeda or other extremists to return to Afghanistan.
In August, the Taliban reclaimed power in Afghanistan, nearly 20 years after they were deposed in a US-led invasion for refusing to hand over al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the US.
The weekend meeting, according to US officials, was part of a series of "pragmatic interactions" with the Taliban and was "not about bestowing recognition or conferring legitimacy" on the group. Officials from the United States claim they are in communication with hundreds of Americans and legal permanent residents who want to leave Afghanistan, and that thousands of US-allied Afghans are still at risk of Taliban persecution.
Washington and other Western countries are grappling with difficult choices as a severe humanitarian crisis looms large in Afghanistan. They are trying to work out how to engage with the Taliban without granting the group the legitimacy it seeks while ensuring humanitarian aid flows into the country.