Dominic Raab has flown to Qatar to hold talks about the government’s “top priority” of safely evacuating British nationals and Afghan interpreters from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
Thousands of Afghans who helped British efforts in the nation and their relatives are feared to have been left behind when the RAF departed Kabul ahead of the US’s end of August deadline for withdrawal.
A statement from the Foreign Office said Mr Raab’s “immediate priority” is to help UK nationals and Afghans who supported British forces to travel to the UK.
The Foreign Secretary said Qatar was a “lynchpin” in dealing with the crisis going forward as he seeks to get “wider buy-in” to the diplomatic efforts.
So, where is Qatar and why is it an influential country to host talks with the Taliban?
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Where is Doha?
Qatar is divided into 8 municipalities: Al-Daayen, Al-Khawr, Al-Rayyan, Al-Shahaniya, Al-Shamal, Al-Wakrah, Doha and Umm Salal Muhammad.
Doha is the capital and largest city of Qatar, located in the eastern part of the country on the coasts of the Persian Gulf.
It’s economy is built primarily on the revenue the country has made from its oil and natural gas industries.
It is the most populous city in Qatar and also the country’s political and economic center.
Who is Dominic Raab visiting in Doha?
The Foreign Secretary has met the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and the deputy prime minister and foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani during his visit to the Persian Gulf state on 2 September.
Why is Dominic Raab in Qatar?
The Foreign Office said Raab will discuss the government’s “four key priorities for Afghanistan” while in Doha.
Those include “preventing Afghanistan becoming a haven for terrorists, responding to the humanitarian plight, safeguarding regional stability, and holding the Taliban to account on human rights”.
At a press conference in Doha after meeting the Emir, the ruler of Qatar, the Foreign Secretary said a “direct engagement” is required with the Taliban.
“The reality is we will not be recognising the Taliban any time in the foreseeable future but I think there is an important scope for engagement and dialogue,” he said.
Why is Qatar negotiating with Taliban?
Qatar is one of the main countries leading diplomatic talks among the Taliban and the West.
Among the outside world, Qatar has the only government considered capable of keeping the militants engaged with evacuation efforts.
Most exiled Taliban leaders are now based in Doha.
When US boots left Afghanistan on 31 August, Qatar played a pivotal role in helping the United States and other countries evacuate their citizens and allies from Afghanistan through peace talks - after the rapid Taliban advance.
When President Barack Obama’s administration sought to end the war, Qatar then hosted Taliban leaders to discuss peace efforts from 2011. Last year, under President Donald Trump’s leadership, talks in Doha talks led to an American pull-out of Afghanistan by May this year.
After taking office, Joe Biden announced that he was extending the deadline for a full withdrawal until 11 September.
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