G20 leaders agreed Tuesday to work together to avoid a humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan, as the EU pledged a one-billion-euro aid package and host Italy stressed the need to maintain contacts with the Taliban.
As the Islamist group held its first face-to-face talks with a US-EU delegation in Qatar, US President Joe Biden, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and India’s Narendra Modi joined a virtual summit on the looming economic and humanitarian crises sparked by the Taliban’s return to power.
The European Union opened the talks by pledging one billion euros ($1.2-billion), including money for urgent humanitarian needs and Afghanistan’s neighbours who were taking in Afghans fleeing the Taliban.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi had been pushing for the Group of 20 meeting since the August takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban, insisting debate over solutions must go beyond the usual club of Western allies.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin did not attend themselves, instead sending representatives, but Draghi insisted they all agreed on the need to help more.
“Instead of responding and arguing… we now have an awareness of this emergency and of the enormous responsibilities that the G20 has towards the Afghan people,” he told a post-summit press conference.
International aid has been blocked to Afghanistan since the Taliban returned to power following the withdrawal of US and other international troops after 20 years of war.
The country’s assets held abroad have been frozen, while food prices and unemployment are rising, prompting warnings of a humanitarian disaster once winter arrives.
“To stand by and watch 40 million people plunge into chaos because electricity can’t be supplied and no financial system exists, that cannot and should not be the goal of the international community,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters.
The United Nations and Qatar, a key broker in Afghanistan which has also hosted talks between the US and the Taliban, were also invited to Tuesday’s closed door talks.
The EU emphasised its money would go to international organisations working on the ground rather than the Taliban’s interim government, which no other government has yet recognised.—APP