COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) – A Taliban delegation will travel to Norway for talks with the Norwegian government, meeting with representatives of the Norwegian authorities and several allied countries but also with civil society activists and human rights defenders from Afghanistan.
The Norwegian Foreign Ministry said Friday that it has invited representatives of the Taliban to Oslo from Jan. 23 to Jan. 25. Norwegian newspaper VG said that special representatives from the United States, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and the European Union would take part. The Norwegian Foreign Ministry declined to comment.
It would be the first time since the Taliban took over the country last August, that they have met in Europe. Earlier they traveled to Russia, Iran, Qatar and Pakistan. It was not immediately clear who will lead the Taliban delegation to the Norwegian capital.
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Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said that “we are extremely concerned about the serious situation in Afghanistan.” She said there is “a full-scale humanitarian catastrophe for millions of people” in the country.
She stressed that the meeting was “not a legitimation or recognition of the Taliban. But we must talk to those who in practice govern the country today.”
“We cannot let the political situation lead to an even worse humanitarian catastrophe,” she said.
The Foreign Ministry said that the Taliban delegation meetings also will include Afghans with backgrounds “from various fields and include women leaders, journalists, and people who work with, among other things, human rights and humanitarian, economic, social and political issues.”
It said that earlier this week, a Norwegian delegation visited Kabul for talks on the precarious humanitarian situation in the country.
Norwegian news agency NTB said that Taliban earlier had taken part in secret talks in Norway when the current prime minister, Jonas Gahr Støre, was foreign minister, which was from 2005 to 2012.
The VG daily said that the single most important issue in the talks that are to take place next week is the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
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The Foreign Ministry in Oslo said that Afghanistan is experiencing drought, pandemics, economic collapse and the effects of years of conflict. According to them, some 24 million people experience acute food insecurity and are unsure of how to obtain enough food. It is reported that 1 million children may die of starvation.
It added that the U.N. estimates that famine will affect more than half of the population this winter and that 97% of the population may fall below the poverty line this year.
“Norway continues to engage in dialogue with the Taliban to promote human rights, women´s participation in society, and to strengthen humanitarian and economic efforts in Afghanistan in support of the Afghan people,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
According to the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, the Scandinavian country that is home to the Nobel Peace Prize has in the past been involved in peace efforts in a number of countries, including Mozambique, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Colombia, the Philippines, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Syria, Myanmar, Somalia, Sri Lanka and South Sudan.