EU pledges money to Afghanistan as G20 demands humanitarian access

The European Union has pledged one billion euros (£850 million) in support for the Afghan people and the G20 vowed to accelerate aid amid concerns that an already precarious humanitarian and financial situation will grow catastrophic over the winter.

20 leaders demanded at a virtual summit hosted by Italy that the Taliban government allow humanitarian access across Afghanistan, keep Kabul Airport and the country’s borders open and ensure security for UN, humanitarian and diplomatic staff.

They also repeated previous demands that women’s rights be respected.

Italian Premier Mario Draghi said the meeting represented the first multilateral response to the crisis sparked by the August withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan and the takeover of the country by the Taliban.

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Italian Premier Mario Draghi during a press conference at the end of a virtual summit of the G20 in Rome dedicated to Afghanistan (Gregorio Borgia/AP)

Mr Draghi told reporters that negotiations would be necessary with the Taliban to get humanitarian aid distributed.

But he said such contact by no means constituted a political recognition of the Taliban, who he said would be “judged for what their deeds are, not their words”.

“The government as we know, it’s not really inclusive, it’s not really representative,” he said.

“Women’s rights, so far as we can see, it seems like they’re going back 20 years.”

G20 leaders – Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping were represented by ministers while US President Joe Biden addressed the summit – tasked the United Nations with coordinating the humanitarian response and asked international financial institutions to ensure the functioning of Afghanistan’s financial system.

The United Nations has warned that the Afghan economy is on the verge of collapse.

Afghanistan, which before the Taliban takeover was dependent on international aid that accounted for 75% of state spending, is grappling with a liquidity crisis as assets remain frozen in the US and other countries, and disbursements from international organisations have been put on hold.

“We all have nothing to gain if the entire monetary or financial system in Afghanistan is collapsing, because then humanitarian aid can no longer be provided either,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters in Berlin after the summit.

The Afghan people should not pay the price of the Taliban’s actionsUrsula von der Leyen, European Commission

During the meeting, the European Union announced a support package worth one billion euros, which includes 300 million euros (£255 million) that had been committed earlier.

It will be targeted at the Afghan population only and neighbouring countries, which have been the first to provide immediate aid.

The EU remains careful not to legitimise the Taliban interim government.

“But the Afghan people should not pay the price of the Taliban’s actions,” European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said.

“This is why the Afghan support package is for the Afghan people and the country’s neighbours who have been the first in providing them with help.”

The White House said the US “remains committed to working closely with the international community and using diplomatic, humanitarian, and economic means to address the situation in Afghanistan and support the Afghan people”.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a video address to the online summit that the international community should keep the channels of dialogue with the Taliban open in order to “patiently and gradually steer” it towards establishing a more inclusive administration.

He repeated that Turkey, which already hosts more than 3.6 million Syrians, cannot be burdened with an influx of migrants from Afghanistan, warning that European nations would also be affected by a new wave of migrants.

“It is inevitable that European countries will also be affected by the migration pressure that Turkey will be exposed to on its southern and eastern borders,” he said.

Mr Erdogan proposed the creation of a working group on Afghanistan within the G20 and said Turkey was willing to head such a grouping.

Mr Draghi said the proposal was interesting – Italy has long complained it has been left on its own to deal with Europe’s migration problems – but said the rest of the G20 would have to agree.

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