Afghan Taliban attend third round of UN talks in Doha


An Afghan Taliban delegation on Sunday participated in the third round of the United Nations-hosted meeting of Special Envoys and Special Representatives on Afghanistan in Doha, Qatar.

“Our participation in this Doha meeting demonstrates that, despite the considerations we have, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is committed to positive engagement,” Afghan government spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid, who is the head of the five-member Taliban delegation, told the opening session.

The text of Mujahid’s speech was released to the media by the Taliban’s official media channels.

“We perceive the current Doha meeting as a crucial opportunity to engage in constructive dialogue regarding the unilateral and multilateral sanctions imposed on some officials and our financial and banking sectors, as well as the broader challenges confronting our national economy,” the Taliban leader told the participants.

This was the first time the Taliban attended the Doha Format meeting since it was launched last year.

Taliban had boycotted the Doha-11 after the UN refused to accept their conditions. They were not invited to the first meeting in May 2023.

Mujahid called for unfreezing all foreign reserves of ‘Da Afghanistan Bank’ (state bank), which, he said, were the legitimate property of the Afghan people, and restoring them to the bank’s control to enhance the implementation of monetary policy.

He said unfreezing Afghanistan’s assets would strengthen the commercial banks, and enable Da Afghanistan Bank to fulfil its foreign currency obligations to commercial banks.

“The continued freezing of these reserves has severely impaired the ability of commercial banks to meet the currency needs of their clients, both domestically and internationally. Consequently, customers are often forced to resort to illegal methods to sustain their trade operations,” he said.

This is the first time the de facto Afghan rulers are attending a gathering of international envoys on Afghanistan since UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres started the process in May 2023, aimed at developing a coherent and unified world approach to engagement with the Taliban.

The Taliban government has not been officially recognised by any state and the international community has wrestled with its approach to Afghanistan’s new rulers, with women’s rights issues a sticking point for many countries.

Taliban authorities were not invited to the first talks in Doha last year and refused to attend the second conference, demanding that they be the sole Afghan representatives to the exclusion of invited civil society groups. That condition has been met for the third round.

The meeting was opened at 8:45pm with opening remarks by UN Undersecretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo, followed by welcoming remarks from Qatari officials. The talks will conclude tomorrow.

Pakistan is also attending the talks, with the delegation being led by Asif Khan Durrani, the country’s special representative on Afghanistan.

Ubaidur Rehman Nizamani, Islamabad’s envoy in Kabul, is also part of the delegation.

There are two items on the official agenda, which has been seen by enabling the private sector, and countering narcotics and sustaining progress.

Although the official agenda consists of only two points, participants from nearly 30 countries and international bodies will be free to raise any issue.

It should be mentioned that the UN has been under fire for the exclusion of civil society groups, including women’s rights activists, from the talks.

However, civil society representatives, including women’s rights groups, will attend meetings with the international envoys and UN officials on Tuesday (July 2), after the official talks.

On Sunday, an Afghan foreign ministry official said that the July 2 meeting was not part of the Doha format.

“If several special envoys meet with someone after the meeting of the participants, it has nothing to do with the Doha-III [meeting],” Zakir Jalali wrote on social media X, in an apparent reference to Tuesday’s gathering.

“The Doha meeting officially concludes on the second day and the UN spokesperson has also said the event is two days. Most of the participants will leave Doha after the formal conclusion of the meeting,” he added.

What do the Taliban expect?

Meanwhile, experts view the participation of the Taliban as a major development but insist that others will have to press the Afghan delegation on several issues.

Former Pakistan ambassador to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmad Khan said an overwhelming demand by the international community was to take steps toward the formation of an inclusive government instead of the incumbent regime.

“Another area of concern for the world has been the ban imposed by the Afghans on girls’ education and women’s access to working in various walks of life. In addition, the Taliban’s regressive curbs on the functioning of independent media in Afghanistan remains a major divergence,” the former Pakistani envoy told on Sunday.

He said Afghanistan’s neighbours, regional countries and the world had also continued to raise objections over the presence of networks supporting militant groups.

Pakistani envoy Asif Durtani held a series of bilateral meetings with several counterparts ahead of the opening session.__Courtesy