G-7 demands Taleban 'guarantee' safe passage from Kabul after Aug 31

A US Marine walks with children during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, on Aug 24, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The Taleban must "guarantee" safe passage for those fleeing Afghanistan beyond the current August 31 evacuation deadline, the Group of Seven (G-7) nations agreed on Tuesday (Aug 24), according to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Johnson, who convened the emergency meeting, said that he and his colleagues had agreed "a roadmap for the way in which we're going to engage with the Taleban" in the future.

But he added that the "number one condition" was "to guarantee... through Aug 31 and beyond, a safe passage for those who want to come out."

Britain chaired the emergency talks among the group of wealthy countries on Tuesday, saying it would urge Biden to extend his Aug 31 deadline to pull American forces out of Afghanistan.

France also called on Washington to push back the timeline.

However, Biden decided after the G-7 talks that he would stick to the deadline, US media reported.

Britain's Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said earlier on Tuesday it was "unlikely" evacuations from Afghanistan would be extended beyond Aug 31.

A spokesman for the Taleban on Monday warned that the hardline Islamist group would not agree to any extension, calling the issue a "red line", with any delay viewed as "extending occupation".

"If the US or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations - the answer is no. Or there would be consequences," Taleban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Sky News.

'Next phase'

Britain has continued to evacuate Western citizens and some Afghans from the capital, with Wallace warning the security situation was getting "more and more dangerous" as Aug 31 approaches.

The defence ministry said 8,458 people have been evacuated by Britain since Aug 13, with nine military flights leaving Kabul in the last 24 hours.

More than half - 5,171 - are Afghans eligible to relocate to Britain under its programme to protect those who aided its military and civilian officials during their two-decade involvement in Afghanistan.

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An individual on Britain's no-fly anti-terrorism watchlist arrived as part of the evacuation, the interior ministry confirmed.

A spokesman said the individual was identified "as part of the rigorous checks process" and that after further investigation was deemed "not a person of interest to the security agencies or law enforcement".

The G-7 leaders also agreed that the Taleban will be "held accountable for their actions on preventing terrorism, on human rights in particular those of women, girls and minorities and on pursuing an inclusive political settlement in Afghanistan", according to a statement issued by Johnson's Downing Street office.

Britain currently chairs the G-7, which also comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.

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