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EU foreign minsters spell out their terms for working with Taliban

The European Union should heed five "benchmarks" while working with the radical Islamist Taliban group to get aid to Afghans, foreign ministers agreed on Friday, without stating what would happen if these red lines were crossed.

The European Union should heed five “benchmarks” while working with the radical Islamist Taliban group to get aid to Afghans, foreign ministers agreed on Friday, without stating what would happen if these red lines were crossed.

“In order to support the Afghan population, we will have to engage with the new government in Afghanistan,” top EU diplomat Josep Borrell said, summarizing ministers’ talks in Slovenia.

To work with the EU, Borrell said first all of the Taliban must not let Afghanistan harbour terrorists that could plot attacks on other countries as it had in the past.

Instead, the group should respect human rights, especially those of women; set up an inclusive government; allow free access for humanitarian aid; and permit foreign nationals plus vulnerable Afghans to leave, Borrell said.

The bloc’s “operational engagement” with the group did not amount to recognition, he stressed.

“Our engagement will depend on the fulfilment of these conditions,” Borrell told reporters. “Some will say ‘oh, but the Taliban will not fulfil them’. Let us see.”

The EU – a major donor to Afghanistan in terms of both development aid and humanitarian assistance – has little leverage in the Central Asian nation following the Taliban takeover last month as NATO troops withdrew.

Borrell previously said that no payments from the EU development aid to Afghanistan planned for 2021-2025, which totals 1.2 billion euros (1.4 billion dollars), would be made until cooperation with the Taliban was clarified.

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