UN chief ready to talk to Taliban once leadership is clear

by Sami Burgaz
‘I am ready to speak myself when it is clear with whom should I speak, for what purpose,’ says Antonio Guterres.

WASHINGTON (AA) – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday he is ready to speak with the Taliban once the hardline group’s leadership is clear.

“I am ready to speak myself when it is clear with whom should I speak, for what purpose,” he told reporters at the UN’s New York headquarters.

The comments come after the Taliban seized the Afghan capital on Sunday following a blitz offensive that saw the rapid fall of the country’s 300,000-strong military and the flight of former President Ashraf Ghani from the country he led.

The US assumed command of Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport on Saturday to facilitate the evacuation of diplomatic personnel and Afghans seeking refugee status with Washington. The US is expected to complete its withdrawal by Aug. 31, though President Joe Biden left the door open to remaining beyond that date should evacuations not be completed.

Guterres said that while he thinks it is important that a guarantee “of effective safety” remains at the airport, the UN does not have the capacity at present to run the facility following the US exit.

“I don’t think the UN is asking, and I don’t think we have the capacity to run the airport,” he said. “We can cooperate with all the parties if our presence is considered useful, but to think the UN can run the airport in the present circumstances knowing what our presence is on the ground, is of course, not realistic.”

Guterres declined to say whether he thinks the Security Council should expand the UN’s mandate in Afghanistan but stressed the importance of the international community maintaining its unanimity on Afghanistan.


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