Blinken sees unity on Taliban after talks with Pakistan, China

Mr Antony Blinken (centre) meets with his Pakistani counterpart (not pictured) on the sidelines of the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, on Sept 23, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday (Sept 24) he believed the world was united on pressing the Taliban after speaking with Pakistan, China and Russia, key players with Afghanistan's new rulers.

Mr Blinken met on Thursday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly with his counterpart from Pakistan, the chief ally of the Taliban regime that was toppled by US troops in 2001, and held talks with ministers of the four other veto-wielding Security Council members, including China and Russia, on Wednesday evening.

"I think there is very strong unity of approach and unity of purpose," Mr Blinken told reporters.

"The Taliban says that it seeks legitimacy, that it seeks support, from the international community. The relationship that it has with the international community is going to be defined by the actions it takes."

Mr Blinken reiterated US priorities for the Taliban, including allowing Afghans and foreigners to leave, respecting the rights of women, girls and minorities, and not letting Afghanistan be used again by extremists such as Al-Qaeda.

The State Department said Mr Blinken highlighted "the importance of coordinating our diplomatic engagement" in talks with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

Pakistan has called for engagement with the Taliban and the unfreezing of Afghan assets, but Mr Qureshi said earlier in the week that there was no rush to recognise a new Taliban government, a step opposed by Western nations.

Mr Qureshi, opening his meeting with Blinken, said, "We have to find a way of collectively working to achieve our common objective, which is peace and stability."

China and Russia have both moved to engage with the Taliban, but have also stopped short of recognition and have longstanding concerns about Islamic extremism.

The Taliban swept through Afghanistan last month after President Joe Biden withdrew US troops, saying there was no point in extending America's longest war beyond 20 years.

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