The UK will not recognise the Taliban for the “foreseeable future”, Dominic Raab said during a diplomatic mission to ensure the safe passage of Britons and Afghans left in the country.
However, the Foreign Secretary added that there is an “important scope for engagement and dialogue” with the group that seized power as foreign forces left Afghanistan.
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At a glance: 5 key points
- Mr Raab was attempting to build a regional coalition to “exert the maximum moderating influence” on the Taliban as they “adjust to the new reality” of the Taliban in power.
- At a press conference in Doha, Qatar, after meeting the Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Foreign Secretary said a “direct engagement” is required with the Taliban.
- At Mr Raab’s side, Qatari foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said he is “hopeful” that Kabul airport will reopen soon, with the Gulf state seen as key to progress as it has maintained close relations with the Taliban.
- The reopening of Hamid Karzai International Airport would allow for a greater scale of evacuations from Afghanistan, with those trying to flee the Taliban currently being told to cross into neighbouring countries.
- 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.
What’s been said
“I think above all we need to put a grouping together that can exert the maximum moderating influence on what the Taliban does next and we will certainly be judging them, yes on their words, but more importantly what they do to live up to the assurances they’ve made.”
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab
“There is no clear indication when it (Kabul airport) is going to be fully operational yet but we are working very hard and also engaging with the Taliban to identify what are the gaps and the risks for having the airport back up and running.
“We will remain hopeful that we will be able to operate it as soon as possible.”
Qatari foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani
During the trip, Mr Raab is also expected to visit Pakistan, which crucially shares a land border with Afghanistan.
Sir Simon Gass, the Prime Minister’s special representative for Afghan transition, had already travelled to Qatar for talks with “senior Taliban representatives” about allowing people to leave 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.
Mr Raab remained under fire over his handling of the crisis, after telling MPs intelligence was to blame for the UK being caught out by the speed of the Taliban takeover last month.
The Foreign Secretary has been widely-criticised for holidaying in Crete as Afghanistan was being recaptured by the Taliban last month.
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