French President Emmanuel Macron said on Saturday that several European nations were considering opening a joint diplomatic mission in Afghanistan but stressed it would not mean recognition of the country’s Taliban rulers.
Western countries have been grappling with how to engage with the Taliban, which took over Afghanistan in a lightning advance in August as US-led forces were completing their pullout after 20 years of war.
“We are thinking of an organisation between several European countries … a common location for several Europeans, which would allow our ambassadors to be present,” Macron told reporters in Doha before heading to his next destination, Saudi Arabia.
“This is a different demarche than a political recognition or political dialogue with the Taliban … we will have a representation as soon as we can open,” he said.
The French president asserted that this initiative would not signal political recognition or political dialogue with the Taliban.
In a statement following talks with the Taliban a week ago, the European Union suggested it could open a mission soon.
“The EU delegation underlined that the possibility of establishing a minimal presence on the ground in Kabul, which would not entail recognition, will directly depend on the security situation, as well as on effective decisions by the de facto authorities to allow the EU to ensure adequate protection of its staff and premises,” it said.
‘Falls short of recognition’
Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride reporting from Kabul said given the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, the Taliban were likely to “welcome any diplomatic moves that would help them out”.
“This does fall short of recognition, people in Afghanistan understand that. But what is interesting is that as a member of the European Union France seems not to be just acting on its own in setting up an office … but could help bring other Europeans with it,” he added.
Meanwhile, Macron also praised Qatar’s role in assisting with evacuation efforts of European citizens out of Afghanistan following the Taliban’s return to power after the West-backed government collapsed.
Afghanistan’s new rulers have appealed to the international community for diplomatic recognition and the lifting of sanctions, as they have struggled to revive the country’s economy cut off from international financial institutions. The country’s infrastructure was already in tatters due to decades of war and US-led military occupation.
The US has frozen nearly $10bn in Afghan central bank reserves and international financial institutions have suspended development funding for the country, plunging the heavily aid-dependent economy into crisis and leaving economists and aid groups warning of a humanitarian catastrophe.
With the winter season setting in, aid organisations have warned of a humanitarian crisis. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) described this week an “alarming” socioeconomic outlook for Afghanistan for the next 13 months.
In Afghanistan, more than 24 million people require life-saving assistance, a dramatic increase driven by political tumult, economic shocks, and severe food insecurity.
The UNDP has projected that poverty may become nearly universal by mid-2022.