Taliban says UN promises aid after meeting with officials in Kabul

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said the Taliban assured the UN delegation of "cooperation and provision of needed facilities." PHOTO: REUTERS

KABUL (REUTERS, AFP) - Senior Taliban officials met in Kabul on Sunday (Sept 5) with the United Nations undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, who promised to maintain assistance for the Afghan people, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said.

Mr Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, head of the Taliban's political office, and other officials met Mr Martin Griffiths as Afghanistan faces a potentially catastrophic humanitarian crisis caused by severe drought and a collapsing economy.

Mr Griffiths was in the Afghan capital on Sunday for several days of meetings with Taliban leadership amid a looming humanitarian disaster in the country newly under the control of the hardline Islamists.

"The authorities pledged that the safety and security of humanitarian staff, and humanitarian access to people in need, will be guaranteed and that humanitarian workers - both men and women - will be guaranteed freedom of movement," a statement from UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Mr Griffiths reiterated in the meeting that the humanitarian community was committed to delivering "impartial and independent humanitarian assistance", the statement added.

He also called on all parties to ensure the rights and safety of women, both those contributing to aid delivery and civilians.

"The UN delegation promised continuation of humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people, saying he would call for further assistance to Afghanistan during the coming meeting of donor countries," Mr Shaheen said on Twitter.

Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries in the world, has been plunged into crisis by the abrupt end of billions of dollars in foreign aid following the collapse of the Western-backed government and the victory of the Taliban last month.

Mr Shaheen said the Taliban assured the UN delegation of "cooperation and provision of needed facilities".

The UN is expected to convene an international aid conference in Geneva on Sept 13 to help avert what UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called a "looming humanitarian catastrophe".

The UN says Afghanistan is mired in a humanitarian crisis affecting 18 million people, or half the population.

Even before the Taliban's lightning offensive that ousted the Western-backed government on Aug 15, Afghanistan was already heavily aid-dependent - with 40 per cent of the country's GDP drawn from foreign funding.

But the future of aid missions in the country under the Taliban has been a source of concern for the UN and aid groups, despite Taliban pledges of a softer brand of rule than during its first stint in power.

Several relief organisations have previously confirmed to AFP they were in talks with the Taliban to continue their operations, or have already received security guarantees for existing programmes.

The UN said this week humanitarian flights had resumed to several Afghan provinces.

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