Low expectations for Taliban talks in Oslo

Status: 01/24/2022 03:06 a.m

In Oslo, the Norwegian government wants to initiate a dialogue with the Taliban. Consultations with envoys from the USA and Europe are scheduled for today. However, quick results are not expected.

By Sofie Donges, ARD Studio Stockholm

So far little is known about the visit of the 15 Taliban representatives to Oslo. Since their arrival on Saturday evening, the men have been staying at a conference hotel in the north of the city. Initial talks also took place there with representatives of Afghan civil society, for example with women’s rights activists.

Contact with the Taliban since the late 1990s

According to Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt, readiness for these talks was a prerequisite for the visit. “We have very strict requirements,” she explained. “We don’t know whether the talks will lead to a result.” She is worried about the situation in Afghanistan. “Without dialogue with those in power, it can very quickly become dangerous for the western world and also for the people in Afghanistan.”

It is no coincidence that this meeting is now taking place in Norway. There has been contact between the Scandinavian country and the Taliban since the late 1990s. In several partly secret, partly public negotiations, Norway has mediated between the radical Islamic group, western states and previous Afghan governments.

Protests by Afghan exiles

The Norwegian Kai Eide, former UN special representative for Afghanistan, played a central role in this. He is one of the proponents of talks with the Taliban. “People in Afghanistan urgently need more help, and the economy needs to get going again,” says Eide. “It is now important that we show a bit of sensitivity with our strict rules. We have to ensure that the Taliban are not completely left out and that we only talk about them. But we must not recognize them legitimately.”

Some Afghan exiles in Norway are appalled by the invitation. They protested in front of the Foreign Ministry because they believed the dialogue would strengthen the Taliban. “We don’t want any Taliban in Norway, they don’t represent us,” they say. “They are on the US terror list – why are we inviting them and negotiating with them? We know what they stand for.”

Conversations behind closed doors

Huitfeldt will not personally attend the meetings with the Taliban delegation today. Instead, deliberations are taking place behind closed doors with special envoys from the US and some European countries. Germany should also be represented. A press conference afterwards is not planned.

How much the public will learn about the content of the talks is not yet clear. However, one should not have too many expectations of the meeting, says Eide. “It won’t change much, but it is an important process. There are also differences of opinion within the Taliban. The moderate forces within the group must be strengthened.” Before leaving, the Taliban had expressed hope for improved relations with the West.

Taliban for three-day talks in Oslo

Sofie Donges, ARD Stockholm, 23.1.2022 ยท 21:28


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