Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat, on Tuesday called for dialogue with the Taliban in Afghanistan to prevent a humanitarian crisis — but made clear that doesn’t mean international recognition.
“We have to get in touch with authorities in Kabul … whatever they are. The Taliban have won the war,” he said, speaking after a video meeting of EU foreign ministers at which they discussed the situation in Afghanistan after the Islamist militants took over the country more rapidly than expected in Washington and Brussels.
“We’ll have to talk with them in order to engage in a dialogue, as soon as necessary, to prevent a humanitarian and potential migratory disaster,” he added, mentioning one of the biggest fears of EU officials — that the situation in Afghanistan could trigger a migration crisis like the one from Syria in 2015. Such dialogue “will also have to focus on the means to prevent foreign terrorist presence in Afghanistan,” he added, referring to the other big fear in many capitals (Brussels itself was hit by a terrorist attack in 2016).
Borrell also announced that he will send a “reinforcement” of the EU delegation in Kabul in order “to pursue a dialogue with the Taliban for practical matters,” mentioning as a priority the need to evacuate about 400 Afghans and their families who worked for the EU.
Borrell described the events of recent days as “the most important geopolitical event that has happened since Crimea was taken by Russia,” admitting that mistakes were made while saying “it was not the European Union that decided to leave Afghanistan.” That decision was taken by “President [Donald] Trump” and “implemented later by the following American administration.”
The Taliban have so far attempted to portray a more moderate image and while EU foreign ministers were meeting, the militant group held a press conference in which they tried to reassure Afghans and the international community about their intentions.
Yet Borrell wasn’t impressed. “They look the same, but they speak better English,” he said.
When an Afghan journalist came close to tears as he asked Borrell not to recognize the Taliban (a similar thing happened during a press conference by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg) without setting clear conditions, the EU top diplomat said: “I have heard your feelings and concerns.
“I didn’t say we are going to recognize the Taliban, I have just said we have to talk with them … and we’ll put conditions” on any EU support, he added, repeating that respect for human rights and U.N. resolutions will be key (the conditions were also set out in a statement published at the end of the two-hour EU meeting).
“We are going to use … all our leverage in order to make the human rights be respected,” Borrell stressed, adding that he was aware that it “looks a little bit wishful thinking.”
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