By Foo Yun Chee, John Chalmers and Sabine Siebold
BRUSSELS, Aug 17 (Reuters) – The EU will only cooperate with the Taliban if they respect fundamental rights, including those of women, and prevent the use of Afghanistan’s territory by terrorists, the bloc’s foreign policy chief said on Tuesday.
Josep Borrell outlined the EU’s stance in a statement after an emergency meeting of European Union foreign ministers to discuss the Taliban’s quick seizure of the Afghan capital Kabul.
“I haven’t said that we are going to recognise the Taliban,” Borrell told a news conference. “I just said that we have to talk with them for everything, even to try to protect women and girls. Even for that, you have to get in touch with them.”
The Taliban, in their first official news briefing since the seizure of Kabul, said they wanted peaceful relations with other countries and would respect the rights of women within the framework of Islamic law.
Their announcement, short on details but suggesting a softer line than during their rule 20 years ago, was made as the United States and Western allies evacuated diplomats and civilians the day after scenes of chaos at Kabul airport as Afghans thronged the airfield.
Borrell said the EU’s priority was to evacuate EU staff and Afghan helpers from Kabul. He put the number of locals who have been working for the EU at almost 400, their families included.
Spain has offered to act as a hub to receive these people before they are sent on to EU countries that have offered them shelter, he said.
Humanitarian aid for Afghans must be maintained and even increased, but assistance will only go to the Afghan government if conditions are met, Borrell said.
Starting a dialogue soon is needed to avert a potential migratory disaster and a humanitarian crisis, he added.
“We have to get in touch with authorities in Kabul … the Taliban have won the war, so we will have to talk to them.”
Borrell ranked the fall of Kabul to the Taliban the most important geopolitical event since the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014.
“It will have an impact on the geopolitical balance of the world,” he said, meaning the EU would have to work more closely with countries such as Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Russia and China.
(Reporting by Sabine Siebold, John Chalmers, Kate Abnett, Foo Yun Chee; editing by Grant McCool)