The leaders of the Group of 20 nations have agreed to step up humanitarian aid to Afghanistan following the US military withdrawal in August — willing to negotiate with the Taliban to ensure the help gets through but not prepared to recognize the extremist group.
G20 members, including President Biden and a number of European leaders, took part in the virtual meeting Tuesday in Rome, but absent were China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who hosted the virtual summit, said the failure of Russia and China to attend did not diminish the importance of the meeting.
“This was the first multilateral response to the Afghan crisis … multilateralism is coming back, with difficulty, but it is coming back,” Draghi said.
There was unanimous agreement among those participating on the need for humanitarian assistance, keeping Kabul’s international airport operating and Afghanistan’s borders open, and ensuring that women’s rights be respected.
Draghi said talks with the Taliban would be necessary to ensure the aid, which will be channeled through the United Nations, gets to the Afghan people — but the group would eventually be “judged for what their deeds are, not their words.”
“The government, as we know, it’s not really inclusive, it’s not really representative,” he said. “Women’s rights, so far as we can see, it seems like they’re going back 20 years.”
The UN said Afghanistan, which has been mired in poverty for decades, is teetering on economic collapse since the Taliban marched into the capital, Kabul, on Aug. 15 and took over the government.
Banks are running out of money, government workers haven’t been paid, rising food prices threaten millions with severe hunger and the approach of winter only adds to the vulnerability of women and children.
“We all have nothing to gain if the entire monetary or financial system in Afghanistan is collapsing, because then humanitarian aid can no longer be provided either,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters in Berlin.
Before the summit, the Chinese Communist Party insisted that sanctions against Afghanistan be removed and the billions of dollars in assets frozen by the US and Europe be returned to Kabul.
But that was met with resistance by the G20 because of concerns the funds would fall into the hands of the Taliban.
The European Union was adamant about not recognizing the Taliban.
“But the Afghan people should not pay the price of the Taliban’s actions,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.
With Post wires