Following the Afghan government’s collapse last month, the 27-nation bloc and its member countries have evacuated their diplomats from Afghanistan. But EU officials have said they are willing to cooperate with the Taliban now that they have returned to power.
The EU is focusing on delivering humanitarian aid, guaranteeing the safe passage out of the country of Afghan collaborators and employees who were left behind during the airlifts from Kabul, and trying to prevent a mass exodus of refugees that could prompt another migration crisis in Europe.
Following meetings with European foreign affairs ministers in Slovenia, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that to gauge the Taliban’s good will, the bloc would use several benchmarks.
They include a guarantee that Afghanistan won’t become a base for the export of terrorism to other countries," a commitment to free access for humanitarian aid deliveries, and adhering to standards in the areas of human rights, rule of law and press freedom.
What is clear is that the future of Afghanistan remains a key issue for us, Borrell said. It affects us, it affects the region, the international stability, and it has a direct impact for European security.
At the same time, the ministers strongly insisted on the idea that we remain committed to supporting the Afghan population, he said.
Borrell stressed that the EU also wants to see an inclusive transition government formed in Afghanistan and the Taliban to honor their pledge to let foreigners and those who fear for their lives leave the country.
Our engagement will depend on the fulfillment of these conditions," Borrell said.
The EU has suspended development assistance to the Afghan government but has pledged about 1.2 billion euros ($1.4 billion) for the country for 2021-2024.
To ensure the evacuation of EU nationals and Afghan staff under the protection of member states and to assess how the Taliban respect the bloc’s conditions, Borrell said that ministers agreed to establish a joint European Union presence" in Kabul, if security conditions are met.
Foreign affairs ministers also acknowledged the need to coordinate with Afghanistan’s neighbors through an EU regional political platform of cooperation aimed at stabilizing the whole region.
This political platform will consider, among other issues, the management of population flows from Afghanistan; the prevention of the spread of terrorism; the fight against organized crime, including drug trafficking and human being smuggling," Borrell said.
Slovenian Foreign Minister Anze Logar, whose country currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said such cooperation will try to stop any future migration flows to the bloc.
Meanwhile, Britain says it will not recognise the Taliban as the new government in Kabul, but must deal with new realities in Afghanistan and does not want to see its social and economic fabric broken, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Friday.
Speaking during a visit to Pakistan, Raab said it would not have been possible to evacuate about 15,000 people from Kabul without cooperation with the Taliban, who seized the capital on Aug. 15.
“The approach we’re taking is that we don’t recognise the Taliban as a government," he said, adding that Britain normally recognized states rather than governments.
“We do see the importance of being able to engage and having a direct line of communication."
Raab’s comments reflect the balance countries such as Britain and the United States are seeking to strike in the aftermath of the Taliban’s lightning victory and the collapse of the Western-backed government in Kabul.
Western countries fear that a looming humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and an economic collapse could create hundreds of thousands of refugees.
But they are wary of Taliban promises that Afghanistan will not go back to the harsh fundamentalist rule exercised during their last period in power before 2001.
“The Taliban has made a series of undertakings - some of them are positive at the level of words. We need to test them and see if this translates into deeds," Raab added.
“It is important at this stage to set or to judge the Taliban by these early, initial and probably, quite modest, tests and see whether they deliver."
He said Britain had released the first tranche of a 30 million pound ($41.5 million) package of humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan’s neighbours, which may have to bear the brunt of any large exodus.
Raab added that the aid budget for Afghanistan had been increased to 286 million pounds but future payments would go through aid groups.
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