UN chief calls on world not to punish Afghans for Taliban’s mistakes

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The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres repeated his appeal to the conditional release of Afghanistan’s frozen foreign reserves, calling on the world to not punish the Afghan civilians for the Taliban’s mistakes. The UN chief pledged to continue his ‘discreet diplomacy’ in resolving the Afghan crisis.

The United States froze nearly $7 billion in assets in the New York Federal Reserves since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021. Since then, individuals and groups within the US and outside have been pleading with Washington to release frozen assets and prevent the calamity that is unfolding in Afghanistan. The UN chief, with the strongest plea, is one such party.

The UN chief said that a nightmare is unfolding in Afghanistan and the world was in a race against time to help the Afghan civilians. “Babies being sold to feed their siblings. Freezing health facilities overflowing with malnourished children. People burning their possessions to keep warm. Livelihoods across the country have been lost”, he said.

During a briefing in New York on Friday, the journalists reminded the UN chief that the situation in Afghanistan has further deteriorated and asked he was willing to talk to the Taliban and persuade them to carry out the reforms needed to end the country’s economic blockade. “First of all, it is clear that we have in Afghanistan a serious situation of violations of human rights, and (the conditions for ending the blockade were) not yet met”, Mr. Guetteres said.

On the issue of talking to the Taliban, the UN chief said: “I intend to go on doing discreet diplomacy, doing active public diplomacy, and speaking out when I believe this is the best way to solve the problems we face.”

He said that the United Nations has “been in constant advocacy with the Taliban to say that it is absolutely essential for them in the context of their objective of recognition but also in the context of their objective of getting international support for their own people.”

The UN chief reiterated his appeal to not link the Taliban’s failure to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Afghanistan. “Humanitarian aid and the need to avoid … the economic collapse in Afghanistan is something that we have been fighting for, because the people of Afghanistan [are] in an absolute desperate situation,” he said.

“It would be a mistake to submit the people of Afghanistan to a collective punishment just because the de facto authorities are not behaving properly.”

Mr. Guetteres made it clear that the United Nations will “go on insisting with the Taliban on human rights but also on the question of terrorism and on the question of inclusive governance.”


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