Talks With Taliban in Norway

UN says famine has been threatening 23 million Afghans, demanding $4.4 billion from donor countries this year to address the humanitarian crisis.

Human rights and the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, where hunger threatens millions, will be in focus at talks opening between the Taliban, the West and members of Afghan civil society.

In their first visit to Europe since returning to power in August, the Taliban will meet on Sunday in Oslo Norwegian officials as well as representatives of the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Italy and the European Union.

The Taliban delegation will be led by Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi.

On the agenda will be “the formation of a representative political system, responses to the urgent humanitarian and economic crises, security and counter-terrorism concerns, and human rights, especially education for girls and women”, a US State Department official said.

The hardline group was toppled in 2001 but swiftly stormed back to power in August as international troops began their final withdrawal.

The Taliban hope the talks will help “transform the atmosphere of war… into a peaceful situation”, government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP news agency on Saturday.

No country has yet recognised the Taliban government, and Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt stressed that the talks would “not represent a legitimisation or recognition of the Taliban”.

“But we must talk to the de facto authorities in the country. We cannot allow the political situation to lead to an even worse humanitarian disaster,” Huitfeldt said.