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Talks With Taliban Begin in Norway     01/23 09:12

   A Taliban delegation led by acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi on 
Sunday started three days of talks in Oslo with Western government officials 
and Afghan civil society representatives amid a deteriorating humanitarian 
situation in Afghanistan.

   OSLO, Norway (AP) -- A Taliban delegation led by acting Foreign Minister 
Amir Khan Muttaqi on Sunday started three days of talks in Oslo with Western 
government officials and Afghan civil society representatives amid a 
deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan.

   The closed-door meetings are taking place at a hotel in the snow-capped 
mountains above the Norwegian capital. The first day will see Taliban 
representatives meeting with women's rights activists and human rights 
defenders from Afghanistan and from the Afghan diaspora.

   Before the talks, the Taliban's deputy minister of culture and information 
tweeted a voice message he said was from Muttaqi, expressing hope for "a good 
trip full of achievements" and thanking Norway, a country he said he hopes will 
become "a gateway for a positive relationship with Europe."

   The trip is the first time since the Taliban took over the country in August 
that their representatives have held official meetings in Europe. Earlier, they 
traveled to Russia, Iran, Qatar, Pakistan, China and Turkmenistan.

   During the talks, Muttaqi is certain to press the Taliban's demand that 
nearly $10 billion frozen by the United States and other Western countries be 
released as Afghanistan faces a precarious humanitarian situation.

   The United Nations has managed to provide for some liquidity and allowed the 
new administration to pay for imports, including electricity, but warned that 
as many as 1 million Afghan children are in danger of starving, and most of the 
country's 38 million people are living below the poverty line.

   The Norwegian Foreign Ministry said the Taliban delegation would also meet 
with Afghans in Norway, including "women leaders, journalists and people who 
work with, among other things, human rights and humanitarian, economic, social 
and political issues."

   "Norway continues to engage in dialogue with the Taliban to promote human 
rights, women's participation in society, and to strengthen humanitarian and 
economic efforts in Afghanistan in support of the Afghan people," the Foreign 
Ministry said in a statement.

   A U.S. delegation, led by Special Representative for Afghanistan Tom West, 
plans to discuss "the formation of a representative political system; responses 
to the urgent humanitarian and economic crises; security and counterterrorism 
concerns; and human rights, especially education for girls and women," 
according to a statement released by the U.S. State Department.

   On Friday, Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt stressed that the 
visit was "not a legitimation or recognition of the Taliban. But we must talk 
to those who in practice govern the country today."

   "We are extremely concerned about the serious situation in Afghanistan," 
Huitfeldt said, noting that economic and political conditions have created "a 
full-scale humanitarian catastrophe for millions of people" facing starvation 
in the country.

   The Scandinavian country, home to the Nobel Peace Prize, is no stranger to 
sensitive diplomacy and has in the past been involved in peace efforts in a 
number of countries, including Mozambique, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Colombia, 
the Philippines, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Syria, Myanmar, 
Somalia, Sri Lanka and South Sudan.

 
 
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