UN delegation to visit Kabul for ‘make or break’ talks

In World
April 09, 2024


The UN Secretary General is dispatching his senior aide to Kabul after Eid in what is seen as “make or break” talks that may determine whether the de facto rule of the Taliban will ever have international recognition, people familiar with the development said.

The visit of Roza Otunbayeva, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), is a follow up of Doha conference held in February to discuss the road map for engagement with Afghanistan.

The special envoys of 25 countries and Afghan representatives of civil society attended the conference in the Qatari capital to take up the recommendations of UN special coordinator on Afghanistan.

The UN conference delivered a clear message to the Afghan Taliban that any international recognition would require the de facto authorities in Kabul to fulfill key conditions that include not allowing the Afghan soil to be the “hot bed” of terrorist activities, establishing an inclusive government and respecting human rights particularly the rights of women and girls.

Read more: UN Doha huddle delivers clear message to Taliban regime 

However, the two-day conference concluded in the Qatari capital without an agreement on the proposal regarding the appointment of UN special envoy for Afghanistan.

The conference was convened by the UN Secretary General and attended by special envoys of 25 countries including Pakistan. A group of civil society activists including women representatives of Afghanistan were also in attendance.

The Afghan Taliban skipped the crucial meeting, voicing concerns over the invitation to its opponents and agenda of the meeting. The absence of Taliban representative seems to have delayed the decision on the appointment of a UN special envoy on Afghanistan.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told reporters in Doha that it was decided that he would initiate consultations on the proposal. The decision to appoint the UN special envoy would be taken in consultations with stakeholders and the de facto Afghan authorities.

Now, as part of those consultations, the UN Secretary General’s special representative on Afghanistan is travelling to Kabul. She will hold talks with the Taliban leadership and persuade them to agree on the proposal regarding the appointment of UN special envoy.

The Taliban government is resisting the move, insisting that UN special envoy is appointed when there is conflict in a particular country. In the case of Afghanistan, the Taliban regime is adamant that there is a “legitimate” government and hence there is no need for the UN special envoy.

However, some western diplomats insist that the appointment of UN special envoy would enhance greater engagement between the Taliban government and the international community.

If Taliban remain opposed to the idea, it will ultimately hurt their chances of getting international recognition, a diplomatic source said.

The source underscored the significance of the UN senior aide’s visit, highlight its critical nature. It noted that if Taliban stick to their stance, it could potentially lead key stakeholders in Afghanistan to neglect the war-torn country.

The source, however, admitted that given the track record of Taliban, they were unlikely to budge from their stance.

One proposal to find a way out of the current impasse is to rename the UN special envoy as special coordinator. The proposal to appoint a UN special envoy was part of the recommendation submitted to the UN Security Council by a special coordinator in November.

The UNSC adopted the resolution in December, endorsing the move. But two key players and veto wielding powers including Russia and China abstained from the process.

Pakistan backed the idea of appointing a UN special envoy on Afghanistan. Islamabad’s stance was in direct conflict with the Afghan Taliban’s position, who vehemently opposed the move.

Relations between Pakistan and Afghan Taliban have been tense for months over the cross border terrorist attacks. Last month, Pakistan resorted to air strikes inside Afghanistan, targeting the “terrorist hideouts”.

At the heart of their troubled ties is the Taliban’s refusal to act against the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its affiliates. Kabul continues to insist on Pakistan holding talks with the TTP.

One the Taliban ministers recently made a public appeal, urging Pakistan and the TTP to find a solution through talks. But Islamabad snubbed the Taliban offer, saying it had no plan to hold talks with terrorists. Instead Islamabad urged Kabul to fulfil its commitment of not allowing the Afghan soil to be used by terrorist groups.

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