20/08/2022

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Cautious nations meet to hunt answers to Afghan poverty

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: Islamic countries have met to discuss how to help Afghanistan avert economic collapse, which they stressed would have a “horrendous” global impact.

The statement was issued after an urgent meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Islamabad, Pakistan, which ended with a promise to establish a fund to provide humanitarian aid through the Islamic Development Bank.

Tom West, U.S. special representative for Afghanistan, also attended the summit.

In a press conference at the end of the gathering, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi announced what he claimed was good news from the U.S., stating that West met with the Taliban delegation, led by the interim foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, on the summit’s sidelines.

Qureshi noted West said he was mandated to “engage” with the Taliban, that U.S. humanitarian aid to Afghanistan would not carry preconditions, and some $1.2 billion might be made available through the World Bank, which could be released to Afghanistan.

The U.S. did not immediately comment on Qureshi’s statements.

The summit brought together dozens of foreign ministers, as well as special representatives for Afghanistan from major powers, including China, the U.S. and Russia.

At the start of the summit, several participating nations called for the immediate re-opening of Afghanistan’s banking system and the provision of assistance.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan urged Washington to drop preconditions for restoring Afghanistan’s banking systems and releasing desperately needed funds.

He also urged the world to understand “cultural sensitivities” and said human rights and women’s rights mean different things in different countries.

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But other speakers, including OIC chairman Hussain Ibrahim Taha, stressed the need to protect human rights, particularly those of women and girls. “This gathering is about the Afghan people,” he said.

Martin Griffiths, UN undersecretary for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, warned Afghanistan cannot survive on donations alone, stressing, “we need constructive engagement with the de facto authorities to clarify what we expect from each other.”

“Universal poverty may reach 97 percent of the population of Afghanistan. That could be the next grim milestone,” he said, adding that next year the UN will ask for $4.5 billion in aid for Afghanistan, its single largest humanitarian aid request.

In what appeared to be a message to the Taliban delegation, Qureshi and subsequent speakers, including Taha, affirmed the need to protect human rights, especially the rights of women and girls.

At the end of the summit, Qureshi said the OIC agreed to appoint a special representative for Afghanistan, while the 20 foreign ministers and 10 deputy foreign ministers in attendance agreed to establish a deeper partnership with the UN to help desperate Afghans.