UK to push for sanctions on Taliban at G7 meeting

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street in central London on August 18, 2021 ahead of an extraordinary session of parliament to discuss the collapse of the Afghan government. (AFP photo)

The United Kingdom is planning to urge leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) countries to consider new sanctions on the Taliban when they meet to discuss the crisis in Afghanistan on Tuesday, sources told Reuters.

On Sunday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who currently leads the group, called for the virtual meeting in the wake of the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan.

“I will convene G7 leaders on Tuesday for urgent talks on the situation in Afghanistan. It is vital that the international community works together to ensure safe evacuations, prevent a humanitarian crisis and support the Afghan people to secure the gains of the last 20 years,” he wrote on Twitter.

London believes the G7, which includes the United States, Italy, France, Germany, Japan and Canada, should contemplate economic sanctions and withhold aid if the Taliban allows the country to foster militants or violates civilians' human rights, according to a British government official.

Since the Taliban captured the Afghan capital, Kabul, the group has granted amnesty to government workers and has spoken of its “commitment to the rights of women under the system of Sharia.”

Earlier this week, Johnson acknowledged in parliament that Britain could not have stayed in Afghanistan “without American might.”

He has come under fire over his handling of the crisis, including within his ruling Conservative party, amid mounting criticism that Britain has been far too ineffectual.

Sanctions against the group are not likely to be adopted immediately, according to one Western diplomat said. British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab first raised the possibility of sanctions last week.

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden told reporters on Sunday, when asked if he supported Britain's push for sanctions, that “the answer is ‘yes.’  It depends on the conduct.”

Biden said last week G7 leaders would work on a joint approach to the Taliban. The US president has already met with Johnson, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi on the matter.

“The Taliban has said — we’ll see whether they mean it or not — they’re seeking legitimacy.  They’re seeking legitimacy to determine whether or not they will be recognized by other countries,” Biden said.

“And so, so far, the Taliban has not taken action against US forces.  So far, they have, by and large, followed through what they said, in terms of allowing Americans to pass through, and the like,” he added.

On Friday, Biden told reporters he and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken would work with other countries to set "harsh conditions" for any cooperation with or recognition of the Taliban.

The US president has been pinning blame on others for the situation in Afghanistan, including his predecessor Donald Trump over an agreement reached with Taliban under his direction and his top diplomat, Mike Pompeo.

Biden, who is under fire at home and abroad for his handling of the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, has argued that he had to go along with the agreement the United States had reached with Taliban in the previous administration.

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