The last day of talks between the Taliban and western diplomats has began in Oslo with a bilateral meeting with Norwegian government officials focused largely on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan.
The three-day talks opened on Sunday with talks between the Taliban and members of Afghan civil society, followed on Monday by multilateral talks with western diplomats the EU, the US, Britain, France, Italy and hosts Norway. Bilateral talks with all parties including independent humanitarian organisations are expected on Tuesday.
The closed-door meetings are taking place at a hotel in the snow-capped mountains above the Norwegian capital and are expected to cover everything from education to humanitarian aid to greater inclusivity.
They come at a crucial time for Afghanistan as freezing temperatures are compounding misery from the downward spiral that has come with the fall of the US-backed government and the Taliban takeover.
Aid groups and international agencies estimate about 23 million people, more than half the country, face severe hunger and nearly 9 million are on the brink of starvation. People have resorted to selling possessions to buy food, burning furniture for warmth and even selling their children. The United Nations has managed to provide some liquidity and allowed the Taliban administration to pay for imports, including electricity.
Faced with the Taliban’s request that nearly $10 billion frozen by the United States and other Western countries be released, Western powers are likely to put the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan high on their agenda, along with the West’s recurring demand for the Taliban administration to share power with Afghanistan’s minority ethnic and religious groups.