Guterres to AFP: We must have ‘dialogue’ with the Taliban and avoid ‘millions of deaths’

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pleaded with the international community, during an interview with AFP Thursday to maintain a dialogue with the Taliban in Afghanistan, warning that an “economic collapse” with possibly millions dying must be avoided.Antonio Guterres wearing a suit and tie: Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, in June 2021© Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, in June 2021

“We must maintain a dialogue with the Taliban, where we affirm our principles directly — a dialogue with a feeling of solidarity with the Afghan people,” he said.

“Our duty is to extend our solidarity to a people who suffer greatly, where millions and millions risk dying of hunger,” Guterres added.

The UN chief said there were “no guarantees” about what might come out of talks but that discussions are a must “if we want Afghanistan not to be a center of terrorism, if we want women and girls to not lose all the rights acquired during the previous period, if we want different ethnic groups to be able to feel represented.”

“Until now, in the discussions that we have had, there is at least a receptivity to talk,” added Guterres, who does not rule out going to Afghanistan one day if conditions are right.

What the UN wishes is “an inclusive government,” where all components of Afghan society are represented, and “this first preliminary government” announced a few days ago “does not give that impression,” he added, regretfully.

“We need respect for human rights, women and girls. Terrorism must have no base in Afghanistan to launch operations in other countries and the Taliban must cooperate in the struggle against drugs,” Guterres added.

He said Afghanistan must be governed “in peace and stability, with the rights of the people respected.”

Guterres added that the Taliban wants recognition, financial support and sanctions to be abolished. 

“That gives a certain leverage to the international community,” he said, adding that “an economic collapse situation which could create appalling humanitarian consequences” must be avoided.

Guterres suggested that, as with Yemen, it is possible to foresee the granting of “financial instruments” to Kabul that would not be subject to current sanctions.

“It is in the interest of the international community and I am not talking about the lifting of sanctions or recognition. I am talking about targeted measures to allow the Afghan economy to breathe,” he told AFP.

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