Taliban hit Britain and Iran amid economic difficulties | The Canberra times

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Afghan Taliban leaders have met with British officials for the first time since taking power. The Taliban’s meeting with British diplomats in the capital, Kabul, came the day after meeting an Iranian delegation – another first since taking office – to discuss trade relations, a major driver of the Afghan economy. The Taliban met in Doha with Sir Simon Gass, British Prime Minister’s High Representative for the Transition of Afghanistan, and Martin Longden, Executive Director of the British Mission in Afghanistan. The meeting marked the first British diplomatic visit to the country since the Taliban captured Kabul on August 15 and took control of Afghanistan after the Allies withdrew. After the meeting, Longden tweeted that there had been “significant discussions” with the Taliban leadership on a wide range of topics, including the humanitarian crisis, terrorism, the importance of safe transit for British and Afghan nationals, and the rights of women and girls. He failed to officially recognize their government, a wish of the Taliban, and called the meeting a “test”. “It’s just getting started and unsurprisingly there are differences between us. But such difficult challenges are ahead of Afghanistan (and beyond),” he tweeted. “It is right to test whether we can get involved pragmatically and find common ground – in the interests of the British and Afghan people.” In a declaration, the Taliban declared that they were committed to good relations with all countries. “In return, we want the international community to return the Afghan nation’s cash capital to our country,” it said, referring to billions of dollars in Afghan assets frozen in US accounts. The Taliban also met with a delegation from neighboring Iran on Monday to regulate trade between the countries, Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi said. They agreed to increase trading hours at the Islam Qala border crossing from eight to 24 hours a day, better regulate the collection of tariffs and improve road works. Customs are an important source of income for Afghanistan. Afghanistan, a country dependent on aid, is facing a liquidity crisis as assets remain frozen in the US and disbursements from international organizations that once represented 75 percent of government spending have been suspended. The United Nations continues to raise the alarm about the country’s poor economic situation, saying that a humanitarian crisis is imminent. The World Organization’s Children’s Fund warned that half of Afghan children under the age of five will be severely malnourished as hunger takes root amid severe food shortages. “There are millions of people who are going to starve, and winter is coming, COVID is raging and the entire social system has collapsed,” said Omar Adbi, deputy executive director of UNICEF programs, during a visit to a Kabul children’s hospital. Australian Associated Press

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