Talks in Oslo between Taliban and Afghan diaspora members served as an "icebreaker," participants say, on the eve of Taliban’s meeting with Western diplomats to discuss humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
A meeting between the Taliban and Afghan civil society members has served as an "icebreaker" in Norway, on the eve of talks between Taliban members and Western diplomats, an Afghan participant said.
"It was a positive icebreaking meeting," feminist activist Jamila Afghani told AFP news agency on Sunday.
The "Taliban displayed goodwill. They listened patiently and responded to most of our concerns. Let's see what their actions will be, based on their words," Afghani said.
Abdul Qahar Balkhi, spokesperson for the interim Afghan Foreign Ministry, confirmed on Twitter that the Taliban delegation met with a number of "Afghan personalities" in Norway's capital Oslo.
"During the meeting, the participants listened patiently to each others’ opinions and exchanged views on the current situation in the country.
"They affirmed that Afghanistan is the shared home of all Afghans, and stressed that all Afghans need to work together for the political, economic and security prosperity of the country," a joint statement read.
The participants agreed that "understanding and joint cooperation are the only solutions" to Afghanistan's problems, the statement further said.
"All participants, with one voice, declared such meetings to be in the interest of the country," it added.
Joint Statement of the One-Day Meeting between the Acting Government of Afghanistan and a Number of Afghan Personalities in the Kingdom of Norway— Zabihullah (..ذبـــــیح الله م ) (@Zabehulah_M33) January 23, 2022
Today, 23 January 2022, a one-day joint meeting was held between officials of the acting Afghan government and a number
Taliban seeking foreign legitimacy
Another Taliban official on Sunday said that three days of talks with Western officials in Oslo were "a step to legitimise (the) Afghan government".
Taliban delegate Shafiullah Azam made the comment after a first day of talks during which Taliban official met women's rights activists and human rights defenders from Afghanistan and the Afghan diaspora.
Talking to reporters, the Taliban vice-director for economic cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said "this type of invitation and communication" will help Europe, the US and many other countries "to erase the wrong picture of the Afghan government".
Ahead of the visit, Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt stressed that the meetings were "not a legitimation or recognition of the Taliban" and currently no foreign government has given them diplomatic recognition.
The trip is the first time since the Taliban took over in August that their representatives have held official meetings in Europe.
Earlier, they travelled to Russia, Iran, Qatar, Pakistan, China and Turkmenistan.
The closed-door meetings are taking place at a hotel in the snow-capped mountains above the Norwegian capital.
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Talks w #Taliban are taking place in Oslo. Shafiullah Azam @ShafiOriakhil, Taliban vice director for economic cooperation at MFA, in Soria Moria hotel:— Serra Karaçam (@serrakaracam) January 23, 2022
We are requesting them to unfreeze Afghan assets and not punish ordinary Afghans because of the political discourse. pic.twitter.com/MBOmxIn8Nv
Taliban calls for unfreeze of assets
Starting on Monday, Taliban representatives will meet delegations from Western nations and will be certain to press the Taliban's demand that nearly $10 billion frozen by the US and other Western countries be released as Afghanistan faces a precarious humanitarian situation.
"We are requesting them to unfreeze Afghan assets and not punish ordinary Afghans because of the political discourse," Azam said.
Holding the talks has created some controversy in Norway, a NATO country involved in Afghanistan from 2001 until the Taliban take over last summer, and protesters on Sunday rallied near the hotel where the talks take place, and also outside the Foreign Ministry.