Middle East

Islamic countries seek response to Afghanistan emergency

ISLAMABAD, Dec 19 (Reuters) – Muslim nations sought to respond to the growing economic and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan as neighboring Pakistan opened an extraordinary meeting on Sunday of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

The emergency in Afghanistan, with millions facing hunger as winter sets in, has caused mounting alarm, but the international community has struggled to come up with a coordinated response given Western reluctance to help the Taliban government, which seized power in August.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the meeting of foreign ministers and officials from the 57-nation group was intended to galvanise support for Afghanistan and anything that could help the situation should be considered.

“A humanitarian and economic meltdown in Afghanistan will have repercussions beyond its borders – mass exodus of refugees, instability and violence,” he told Reuters in an email.

The two-day meeting in Islamabad also includes representatives from the United Nations and international financial institutions, as well as from world powers including the United States, the European Union and Japan.

The Taliban’s acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi is also attending, even though so far no country has officially recognised the new administration in Kabul.

Taliban officials have asked for help rebuilding Afghanistan’s shattered economy and feeding more than 20 million people threatened with hunger. Some countries and aid organisations have begun delivering aid, but a near-collapse of the country’s banking system has complicated their work.

Beyond the immediate issue of aid, Afghanistan needs help ensuring longer-term economic stability. Much will depend on whether Washington is willing to lift sanctions against Taliban leaders that have caused many institutions and governments to shy away from direct dealings with their government.

The Taliban, who were last in power in 2001, have declared an amnesty on officials of the former government and said they will never allow Afghanistan to be used as a base for attacks on other countries.

But they have faced heavy criticism for keeping girls out of high school in most of the country and have been accused of targeting former officials, despite their promise of amnesty.

Reporting by James Mackenzie; Editing by William Mallard

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