Taliban assure Swiss delegation of protection of embassies, int'l organisations

Both sides discuss ongoing situation of Afghanistan and current peace process, says Taliban Qatar office spokesperson


News Desk July 18, 2021

Afghan Taliban leaders met a delegation from Switzerland and discussed the ongoing situation in Afghanistan, the spokesman for the Taliban's Qatar office said.

"Head of European Section PO [political office], Mullah A. Wasiq and his accompanying delegation met Swiss non-resident Ambassador to Afghanistan Benedict de Cerjat and Swiss ambassador to Qatar Edgar Doerig and his delegation in Qatar, yesterday," Suhail Shaheen wrote on microblogging site Twitter on Saturday.

He said that both sides discussed the ongoing situation of Afghanistan, the current peace process and humanitarian and development assistance of Swiss to Afghanistan.

"Issues relating [to] security of embassies, humanitarian organisations, diplomats and staff were also discussed," the spokesperson added.

Suhail also said that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan delegation reiterated that embassies and international organisations were important for relations and liaison between Afghanistan and the world. "We consider their protection part of our national interests," he further said.

The development comes at a time when representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban met in Doha for talks, as violence rages in the neighbouring country with foreign forces almost entirely withdrawn.

The two sides have been meeting on and off for months in the Qatari capital, but the talks have lost momentum as the insurgents have made battlefield gains.

Several high-ranking officials, including former Afghan chief executive Abdullah Abdullah, gathered in a luxury hotel on Saturday after morning prayers.

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They were joined by negotiators from the Taliban's political office in Doha.

The Taliban have capitalised on the last stages of the withdrawal of US and other foreign troops from Afghanistan to launch a series of lightning offensives across the country.

"We are ready for dialogue, for talks and negotiations, and our priority is to solve the problems through dialogue," Taliban spokesman Muhamad Naeem told the Al Jazeera broadcaster ahead of Saturday's talks.

"The other side must have a true and sincere will to end the problems."

Earlier, Pakistan also proposed to host a peace conference on Afghanistan and had invited all important members of the Afghan leadership. However, it was postponed till Eidul Azha after the Afghan government refused to send its delegation.

Also read: Taliban leader ‘favours political settlement’ to Afghan conflict: statement

“The Afghan Peace Conference scheduled to be held in Islamabad from 17-19 July 2021 has been postponed until after Eidul Azha,” said a brief statement issued by the Foreign Office.

The new dates of the conference will be announced later, the statement added.

The Taliban have also tightened their grip on the north, with clashes continuing on Saturday in the stronghold of infamous warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, which borders Turkmenistan.

Also on Saturday, the French government flew out around 100 of its citizens and Afghans working for the embassy from the capital, as security deteriorated, a French diplomatic source said.

Several other countries including India, China, Germany and Canada have flown out their citizens or told them to leave in recent days.

There have been weeks of intensifying fighting across Afghanistan, with the Taliban pressing multiple offensives and overrunning dozens of districts at a staggering rate.

Foreign troops have been in Afghanistan for nearly two decades following the US-led invasion launched in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

They have appeared largely out of the picture in recent months, but fears are growing that Afghan forces will be overwhelmed without the vital air support they provided.

The speed and scale of the Taliban onslaught have caught many by surprise, with analysts saying it appears aimed at forcing the government to negotiate on the insurgents' terms or suffer complete military defeat.

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