U.N. Chief Wants Taliban Sanctions Lifted to Facilitate Humanitarian Aid

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres talks to media at a press conference, during the High-Level Ministerial Event on the Humanitarian Situation in Afghanistan, at the European headquarters of the United Nation, in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, Sept. 13, 2021. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)
Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) on Wednesday that much of Afghanistan’s population is “hanging by a thread” after the brutal Taliban takeover – and asked member nations to lift sanctions on the very same Taliban, to facilitate humanitarian aid.

“We need to give financial institutions and commercial partners legal assurance that they can work with humanitarian operators without fear of breaching sanctions,” Guterres said.

“At this moment, we need the global community – and this Council – to put their hands on the wheel of progress, provide resources, and prevent Afghanistan from spiraling any further,” he urged.

“As a matter of moral responsibility – and regional and global security and prosperity – we cannot abandon the people of Afghanistan. Afghans need peace, hope, and help, and they need it now,” he declared.

AFP

A woman wearing a burqa walks along a road towards her home after receiving free bread distributed as part of the Save Afghans From Hunger campaign in Kabul on January 18, 2022. (Wakil KOHSAR/AFP)

In December, UNSC granted a humanitarian exemption to the U.N.’s own sanctions on Afghanistan, unblocking transactions that could “allow for the processing and payment of funds, other financial assets or economic resources, and the provision of goods and services necessary to ensure the timely delivery of assistance.”

TOPSHOT - A Taliban fighter stands guard before to start a women protest in support of the Taliban regime at the Ahmad Shah Massoud square in front of the US embassy in Kabul on January 26, 2022. (Photo by Wakil KOHSAR / AFP) (Photo by WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images)

A Taliban fighter stands guard before to start a women protest in support of the Taliban regime at the Ahmad Shah Massoud square in front of the US embassy in Kabul on January 26, 2022. (WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images)

The Security Council advised its members to use “reasonable efforts” to ensure these unblocked funds did not end up in the hands of the Taliban, whose “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” government includes a number of designated terrorists and wanted international criminals.

In this photograph taken on January 16, 2022, Taliban fighters take part in a military street parade in Maymana, capital of Faryab province. (Photo by Elise BLANCHARD / AFP) (Photo by ELISE BLANCHARD/AFP via Getty Images)

In this photograph taken on January 16, 2022, Taliban fighters take part in a military street parade in Maymana, capital of Faryab province. (ELISE BLANCHARD/AFP via Getty Images)

“Our team in Afghanistan stands ready to work with Member States and others to establish accountable systems to ensure that funds go to the Afghan people most in need, and are not diverted,” Guterres promised Security Council members Wednesday.

Guterres also made some demands of the Taliban, without indicating how he would enforce them, or dwelling upon the Taliban’s refusal to improve on human rights despite repeated pleas from the United Nations.

“The window for trust-building is open. But this trust must be earned,” Guterres signaled to the Taliban.

“We must prevent the expansion of all terrorist organizations in the country. And just as I appeal to the international community to step up support for the people of Afghanistan, I make an equally urgent plea to the Taliban leadership to recognize and protect the fundamental human rights that every person shares,” he said.

On Tuesday, a group of Western diplomats told a Taliban delegation visiting Europe that increased humanitarian aid would be linked to improved human rights. 

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store told the U.N. these talks appeared to have been “serious” and “genuine,” while the Taliban simply held them up as an example of the Western world granting the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan the legitimacy it craves.

“From these meetings we are sure of getting support for Afghanistan’s humanitarian, health and education sectors,” one Taliban official boasted.

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