Qatar's foreign minister has held talks with senior officials of Afghanistan’s new Taliban-led government, becoming the first foreign official to visit the war-torn nation since the Taliban’s takeover on August 15.
Meeting Prime Minister Mullah Muhammad Hasan Akhund of the caretaker government in Kabul on Sunday, the visiting Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani urged Afghanistan’s new rulers to "involve all Afghan parties in national reconciliation," according to a statement issued by Qatar’s Foreign Ministry.
The two sides further discussed "concerted efforts to combat terrorist organizations that threaten the stability of Afghanistan," ways to enhance peace in the country, and the safe passage of people, the statement added.
A Taliban spokesman was also cited in press reports as saying that Al-Thani also met other senior ministers of the interim government, focusing on “bilateral relations, humanitarian assistance, economic development and interaction with the world.”
Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Salam Hanafi, Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, Defense Minister Yaqoob Mujahid, Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani and intelligence chief Abdul Haq Wasiq were present at the meeting in the presidential palace in Kabul.
The Taliban further stated that the leadership of Afghanistan’s new “Islamic Emirate” system thanked the Qatari government for its support of the Afghan people.
The new government also hailed the Doha agreement – signed by the US and the Taliban last year – as a “landmark achievement,” adding that “all sides should adhere to its implementation.”
The Qatari top diplomat also met with Abdullah Abdullah, the former chief peace negotiator of the ousted government, as well as former president Hamid Karzai, the foreign ministry statement added, without elaborating.
Qatar has long acted as a mediator on Afghanistan, hosting the Taliban's talks with Washington under former US president Donald Trump, and then with the now-ousted government of president Ashraf Ghani, who fled Afghanistan as Taliban militants closed in on Kabul last month.
Doha is also hosting tens of thousands of Afghans who collaborated with US forces and were evacuated by the American military in the final weeks of the US-led occupation as they are being processed for eventual entry into the United States if approved.
So far, no country has formally recognized the interim Taliban government.
UN seeks $600mn to avert Afghan humanitarian crisis
The United Nations, meanwhile, is convening an aid conference in Geneva on Monday in a bid to raise $600 million for Afghanistan, as it has persistently warned of a humanitarian crisis in the country following the Taliban’s takeover.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has complained of financial troubles facing the world body. He declared on Friday that “at the present moment the UN is not even able to pay its salaries to its own workers."
The Geneva conference, due to commence Monday afternoon, will be attended by top UN officials -- including Guterres, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross Peter Maurer, as well as dozens of government representatives, including German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.
Nearly one-third of the $606 million being sought by the UN would be used by its World Food Program (WFP), which says that 93 percent of the 1,600 Afghans it surveyed in August and September were not consuming sufficient food, mostly because they could not get access to cash to pay for food.
"It's now a race against time and the snow to deliver life-saving assistance to the Afghan people who need it most," said WFP deputy regional director Anthea Webb. "We are quite literally begging and borrowing to avoid food stocks running out."