Coveney expresses Ireland’s ‘grave concern’ for Afghan women and girls

‘Taliban have won the war so we will have to talk with them,’ says EU high representative for foreign affairs

People outside the    airport in Kabul after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. Photograph: Jim Huylebroek/The New York Times

People outside the airport in Kabul after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. Photograph: Jim Huylebroek/The New York Times

 

EU foreign ministers have signalled that the bloc will engage with the Taliban but continuing aid for Afghanistan will be conditional on the protection of fundamental rights by the new government in Kabul.

In a statement agreed at an emergency meeting of foreign ministers on Tuesday evening, ministers agreed to continue aid to the country but only if the Taliban does not repeat the brutal repression it showed when it last governed.

“Co-operation with any future Afghan government will be conditioned on a peaceful and inclusive settlement and respect for the fundamental rights of all Afghans, including women, youth and persons belonging to minorities, as well as respect for Afghanistan’s international obligations, commitment to the fight against corruption and preventing the use of Afghanistan’s territory by terrorist organisations,” a statement issued after the meeting said.

The EU high representative for foreign affairs, Josep Borrell, said that the EU would pursue a dialogue with the Taliban on “practical matters”.

“The Taliban have won the war so we will have to talk with them,” Mr Borrell told a press conference in Brussels .

However, he said that the EU will not simply accept the Taliban no matter what it does. “We will use all our leverage...to defend Afghanistan people.”

Conditionality

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, who attended the virtual meeting, said he expressed “Ireland’s grave concern at the situation for women and girls in Afghanistan”.

“The EU has been clear on the conditionality we will attach to support to any future Afghan government, particularly the need for a peaceful and inclusive settlement and respect for fundamental rights of all Afghans,” he said.

Officials briefed on the meeting said that migration issues had also been discussed by the foreign ministers at a “sombre” meeting that acknowledged the failure of the nation-building project in Afghanistan.

While the focus for the coming days is on extraction of EU citizens and Afghan staff, attention is likely to shift to the problem of managing refugees from Afghanistan in the coming weeks.

Irish officials are currently trying to “book space” on military transports of other countries to ensure the evacuation of Irish citizens in Afghanistan. It is hoped that the small number of Irish citizens who wish to leave the country will be able to do so in the coming days, but the evacuation and transport to Ireland of Afghan refugees is expected to take longer, with many expected to make their way out of their country through Pakistan.

All the Irish citizens continue to be in touch with the Department of Foreign Affairs, though officials did not say if any were waiting inside the airport in Kabul. “There isn’t a single location where they are all waiting,” one official said.

Irish citizens

US soldiers restored order at the airport on Tuesday, but it was unclear if Taliban fighters in Kabul were allowing people to make it to the airport from the city. Some of the Irish citizens are in other parts of Afghanistan. Some will “make their own way out”, officials said.

Repatriating Irish citizens is the priority for the Government, while the transfer of up to 150 Afghan refugees is likely to be “a more drawn out process”, an official said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has been in touch with NGOs and in-country agencies to draw up a list of those approved for admission to Ireland.