Afghan acting foreign minister asked US to lift ban on central bank reserves, report says

Mr Amir Khan Muttaqi also said Washington would offer Afghans coronavirus vaccines. PHOTO: AFP

CAIRO/KUNDUZ (REUTERS/AFP) - Taliban representatives asked the United States to lift a ban on Afghan central bank reserves at a meeting with US counterparts in Doha, Afghanistan's acting foreign minister said on Saturday (Oct 9) in remarks reported by Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television.

The minister, Mr Amir Khan Muttaqi, also said Washington would offer Afghans coronavirus vaccines, Al Jazeera reported, after the first senior face-to-face meeting between the two sides since the hardline group took over the country in August following a US troop pull-out.

The minister added that the Afghan delegation and US counterparts discussed "opening a new page" between the two countries, adversaries during the US' two-decade long occupation of Afghanistan.

Washington and other Western countries are grappling with difficult choices as a severe humanitarian crisis looms large over Afghanistan.

They are trying to formulate how to engage with the Taliban without granting it the legitimacy it seeks, while ensuring humanitarian aid flows into the country.

The departure of US-led forces and many international donors robbed the country of grants that financed 75 per cent of public spending, according to the World Bank.

Speaking to Reuters earlier in Washington, a US official said that while there was an improvement for humanitarian actors to get access to some areas that they have not been to in a decade, problems still persisted, adding that the US delegation at the Doha talks would press the Taliban to improve.

Mr Muttaqi also said that the Afghan delegation focus at the meeting was humanitarian aid and implementing Doha agreement.

He said the discussions would continue on Saturday and would resume on Sunday.

Mr Muttaqi added the Afghan delegation will meet European Union representatives to discuss latest developments, but he did not mention when the meeting will be held.

Meanwhile, mourners from Afghanistan's minority Shi'ite community buried their dead on Saturday after a suicide attack claimed by the Islamic State, or ISIS, group killed more than 60 people.

A gravedigger in the Shi'ite cemetery overlooking the northern city of Kunduz told AFP they had handled 62 bodies, and reports suggested a final toll of up to 100.

The blast targeted Friday prayers in the packed Sayed Abad mosque in the city, in an apparent attempt to stir trouble between Shi'ites and Afghanistan's Sunni majority.

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attack, which the new Taliban security forces in Kunduz said was carried out by a suicide bomber.

The hardline Sunni movement has vowed to protect Shi'ites, who have faced persecution in Afghanistan in the past, but the community in Kunduz has been traumatised by the violence.

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