ROME (Oct 12, 2021) – Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi hosted a special summit of the Group of 20 major economies on Tuesday to discuss Afghanistan, as worries grow about a looming humanitarian disaster following the Taliban’s return to power.
Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan on Aug. 15, the country – already struggling with drought and severe poverty after decades of war – has seen its economy all but collapse, raising the spectre of an exodus of refugees.
“The summit’s focus points include urgent humanitarian support for the Afghan population, the fight against terrorism, freedom of movement inside the country and open borders,” Draghi’s office said in a brief statement.
U.S. President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Europe’s G20 leaders participated in the summit, but Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin did not — ended with a general agreement about the importance of providing a lifeline to Afghanistan’s people as conditions worsen.
“President Biden met virtually with G20 Leaders today to discuss Afghanistan. The G20 Leaders were joined by Leaders of G20 guest countries and international financial institutions. The Leaders discussed the critical need to maintain a laser-focus on our enduring counterterrorism efforts, including against threats from ISIS-K, and ensuring safe passage for those foreign nationals and Afghan partners with documentation seeking to depart Afghanistan. The Leaders also reaffirmed their collective commitment to provide humanitarian assistance directly to the Afghan people through independent international organizations, and to promote fundamental human rights for all Afghans, including women, girls, and members of minority groups. The United States remains committed to working closely with the international community and using diplomatic, humanitarian, and economic means to address the situation in Afghanistan and support the Afghan people,” said President Biden in a readout following the virtual meeting.
“The main problem is that Western countries want to put their finger on the way the Taliban run the country, how they treat women for example, while China and Russia on the other hand have a non-interference foreign policy,” said a diplomatic source close to the matter.
The U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres joinedTuesday’s summit, highlighting the central role being given to the United Nations in dealing with Afghanistan – in part because many countries don’t want direct relations with the Taliban.
Banks in the country are running out of money, civil servants have not been paid and food prices have soared.
“The crisis is affecting at least 18 million people – half the country’s population,” Guterres told reporters in New York on Monday, adding that a massive U.N. aid operation was underway in a “race against time” as winter approaches. read more
Italy, which holds the rotating presidency of the G20, has worked hard to set up the meeting in the face of highly divergent views within the group on how to deal with Afghanistan after the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Kabul.
China has publicly demanded that economic sanctions on Afghanistan be lifted and that billions of dollars in Afghan international assets be unfrozen and handed back to Kabul.
The United States and Britain, where many of the assets are being held, are resisting this.
Guterres on Monday called for a major injection of liquidity into the Afghan economy, but said this should not be channelled through the Taliban. Answering his call, the European Union said on Tuesday it would give an additional 700 million euros ($810 million) in emergency aid to Afghanistan and its neighbours. read more
Two neighbouring states, Pakistan and Iran, were not invited to join Tuesday’s G20 call, but Qatar, which has played a key role as an interlocutor between the Taliban and the West, was taking part.
The virtual summit comes just days after senior U.S. and Taliban officials met in Qatar for their first face-to-face meeting since the hardline group retook power. read more
Source: White House and Reuters contributed to the article.