A Taliban delegation is in Geneva for talks with Swiss officials and NGOs on humanitarian access and human rights, Switzerland’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday.
The delegation from Afghanistan’s new rulers is due to hold talks with the Red Cross and other non-governmental organisations in the Swiss city, which is also home to several United Nations agencies.
“The members of the delegation will have discussions around humanitarian access to populations in need, the protection of humanitarian actors and respect for human rights,” a foreign ministry spokeswoman told the AFP news agency.
“The protection of children during conflicts and the management of land contaminated by mines are also on the agenda of the conferences, which take place in a confidential setting.”
The spokeswoman said that Swiss ministry representatives would meet the delegation this week.
However, she stressed that their delegation’s presence on Swiss territory “does not represent a legitimisation or recognition of the Taliban”.
Switzerland’s ATS news agency reported that the delegation was being led by Latifullah Hakimi and numbers about 10 people.
Hakimi is a senior official at the Taliban defence ministry. He heads a commission formed by the Taliban government to identify members who were flouting the group’s regulations.
Representatives from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the foreign ministry’s Peace and Human Rights Division and its Asia and Pacific Division are also due to meet the delegation this week.
“Afghanistan is facing a complex emergency situation due to armed conflicts, COVID-19 and its socioeconomic consequences, as well as extreme weather conditions,” the foreign ministry spokeswoman said.
“Today, 23 million Afghans are at risk of malnutrition and a large majority of the population lives below the poverty line.”
Since the Taliban seized control in mid-August as the United States ended its 20-year war in Afghanistan, the country has plunged into financial chaos, with inflation and unemployment surging.
The halting of aid and sanctions following the Taliban takeover has triggered a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, which has already been devastated by decades of war.
Calls to find women activists
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the UN human rights office called for the release of four women activists and their relatives in Afghanistan who were detained or abducted last month.
The OHCHR said there was no news about the whereabouts of the four women, who it said reportedly took part in a protest on women’s rights on January 16, and added it was pressing the authorities for information on these cases.
“We call for their immediate release,” Liz Throssell, an OHCHR spokesperson, told Geneva-based journalists. “We are gravely concerned for the safety of the disappeared women and their family members.”
The OHCHR said Parwana Ibrahim Khil and Tamana Paryani were abducted with their relatives on January 19, while Mursal Ayar and Zahra Mohammadi were seized last week and there was no information on where they were being held.
Throssell said it was unclear who had taken the women and noted Taliban officials had denied involvement.
Asked to respond, Taliban administration spokesman Bilal Karimi said, “Still we are investigating and trying to find information.”