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EU lays out terms for Taliban aid

Leaders to judge on human rights, order, freedom to leave by SAMUEL PETREQUIN THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | September 4, 2021 at 4:21 a.m.
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell speaks during a media conference at the conclusion of a meeting of EU foreign ministers Friday at the Brdo Congress Center in Kranj, Slovenia. Video at (AP/Darko Bandic)

BRDO CASTLE, Slovenia -- European Union officials Friday listed a set of conditions for defining their level of engagement with the Taliban as the new rulers of Afghanistan, including respect for human rights and the rule of law.

Following the Afghan government's collapse last month, the 27-nation bloc and its member countries have evacuated their diplomats, but EU officials have said they are willing to cooperate with the Taliban.

The EU is focusing on delivering humanitarian aid, guaranteeing the safe passage out of the country of Afghan collaborators and employees who were left behind during the airlifts from Kabul, and trying to prevent a mass exodus of refugees that could prompt another migration crisis in Europe.

After meetings with European foreign affairs ministers in Slovenia, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that to gauge the Taliban's good will, the bloc would use several benchmarks.

They include a guarantee that Afghanistan won't become a base for "the export of terrorism to other countries," a commitment to free access for humanitarian aid deliveries, and adhering to standards in the areas of human rights, rule of law and press freedom.

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"What is clear is that the future of Afghanistan remains a key issue for us," Borrell said. "It affects us, it affects the region, the international stability, and it has a direct impact for European security."

"At the same time, the ministers strongly insisted on the idea that we remain committed to supporting the Afghan population," he said.

Borrell stressed that the EU also wants to see an inclusive transition government formed in Afghanistan and for the Taliban to honor their pledge to let foreigners and those who fear for their lives leave the country.

"Our engagement will depend on the fulfillment of these conditions," Borrell said.

The EU has suspended development assistance to the Afghan government but has pledged about $1.4 billion to the country for 2021-24.

To ensure the evacuation of EU nationals and Afghan staff under the protection of member states and to assess how the Taliban respect the bloc's conditions, Borrell said ministers agreed to establish a "joint European Union presence" in Kabul if security conditions are met.

Foreign affairs ministers also acknowledged the need to coordinate with Afghanistan's neighbors through an EU regional political platform of cooperation aimed at stabilizing the whole region.

"This political platform will consider, among other issues, the management of population flows from Afghanistan; the prevention of the spread of terrorism; the fight against organized crime, including drug trafficking and human being smuggling," Borrell said.

Slovenian Foreign Minister Anze Logar, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, said such cooperation will try "to stop any future migration flows" to the bloc.

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