Saturday, October 16, 2021

US says Taliban talks in Doha were ‘candid and professional’

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The United States said on Sunday the first face-to-face meeting between senior US and Taliban officials since the group retook power in Afghanistan was “candid and professional” and that the US side reiterated that the Taliban would be judged on their actions, not just their words.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said the US delegation in the weekend talks in Doha, Qatar, focused on security and terrorism concerns and safe passage for US citizens, other foreign nationals and Afghans.

He said the two sides also discussed “the United States’ provision of robust humanitarian assistance, directly to the Afghan people.”

“The discussions were candid and professional with the US delegation reiterating that the Taliban will be judged on its actions, not only its words,” Price said in a statement.

It did not say if any agreements were reached.

On Saturday, Qatar-based Al Jazeera television quoted Afghanistan’s acting foreign minister as saying that Taliban representatives asked the US side to lift a ban on Afghan central bank reserves.

It said the minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, also said Washington would offer Afghans coronavirus vaccines and that the two sides discussed “opening a new page” between the two countries.

Biden administration officials told Reuters on Friday the US delegation would press the Taliban to release kidnapped American Mark Frerichs. Another top priority would be to hold the Taliban to their commitment not to allow Afghanistan to again become a hotbed for al Qaeda or other extremists.

The Taliban took back power in Afghanistan in August, almost 20 years after they were ousted in a US-led invasion.

The U.S. officials said the weekend meeting was a continuation of “pragmatic engagements” with the Taliban and “not about granting recognition or conferring legitimacy” to the group.

US officials say they are in contact with dozens of Americans and legal permanent residents who wish to leave Afghanistan and there are thousands of US-allied Afghans at risk of Taliban persecution still in the country.

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