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OSLO, Norway (AP) — The Taliban and western diplomats have begun their first official talks in Europe since they took over control of Afghanistan in August.
The closed-door meetings were taking place at a hotel in the snow-capped mountains above the Norwegian capital. Taliban representatives will be certain to press their demand that nearly $10 billion frozen by the United States and other Western countries be released as Afghanistan faces a precarious humanitarian situation.
“We are requesting them to unfreeze Afghan assets and not punish ordinary Afghans because of the political discourse,” said Taliban delegate Shafiullah Azam on Sunday night. “Because of the starvation, because of the deadly winter, I think it’s time for the international community to support Afghans, not punish them because of their political disputes.”
Ahead of the talks, western diplomats met with Afghan women’s rights activists and human rights defenders to hear from civil society in Afghanistan and the Afghan diaspora about their demands and assessment of the current situation on the ground. The meeting was attended by representatives of the EU, the U.S., Britain, France, Italy and hosts Norway.
Standing silent as attendees gathered, women’s rights activist Heda Khamoush, who lives in Kabul, held up the photos of Tamana Zaryabi Paryani and Parwana Ibrahimkhel, two women arrested by the Taliban last week following an anti-Taliban protest against the compulsory Islamic headscarf, or hijab, for women. They haven’t been seen since.
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