Dominic Raab set out the UK’s aims at a meeting with counterparts from countries including the US, France and Germany.
The talks came on a day of international diplomacy as world powers discussed how to respond to the new administration in Kabul.
At-a-glance: 5 key points
- The Foreign Secretary emphasised the importance of “safe passage and exit arrangements for eligible Afghans”, following the end of British and US efforts to evacuate thousands of people from Kabul at the weekend.
- His intervention came at a US-convened meeting for the G7 group of industrialised democracies – the UK, US, Canada, Japan, Germany, France and Italy – along with representatives from the EU, Turkey, Qatar and the Nato alliance.
- The Taliban has given assurances that foreign nationals and Afghan citizens with travel authorisation will be allowed to leave.
- However, Mr Raab stressed that “we must judge them on their actions” adding that the priorities were to prevent Afghanistan again becoming a haven for terrorism, to ensure humanitarian access, protect the human rights gains of the last 20 years and preserve regional stability.
- On Monday (30 August) rocket fire apparently targeting Kabul’s international airport struck a nearby neighbourhood on Monday but US military C-17 transport planes continued the withdrawal effort as 20 years of Western military presence drew to a close. The so-called Islamic State group’s offshoot in Afghanistan, Isis-K, claimed responsibility, saying it fired at least six rockets at the airport.
What’s been said?
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The Foreign Secretary emphasised the importance of working with like-minded partners on safe passage and exit arrangements for eligible Afghans remaining in the country.”
The focus on ensuring safe passage for eligible Afghans comes with uncertainty about how many might seek to reach the UK and how they can hope to make the journey following the end of the airlift.
Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly said it was impossible to estimate how many people eligible to come to the UK had been left behind after evacuation flights finished.
Around 15,000 people had been evacuated from Afghanistan in a “herculean” effort, Mr Cleverly said, but Labour has claimed around 5,000 may have been left behind and ministers have faced criticism over the UK response.
Mr Cleverly acknowledged some emails about desperate Afghans seeking to leave may not have been read in the Foreign Office as priority in the evacuation effort was given to people who could be processed and reached Kabul airport before the airlift ended.
Mr Cleverly told the BBC the Government was “quite sceptical” about the commitments the new Kabul regime had made to allowing safe passage.
The G7 nations are attempting to use diplomatic channels to influence the Taliban. However, the key could lie with China and Russia.
The UK’s UN ambassador Dame Barbara Woodward will discuss the situation in Afghanistan with her counterparts from the four other permanent member countries of the UN Security Council – China, France, Russia, and the US.
The UK hopes the influence Russia and China could have over the new Afghan government could be key to countering terrorism and the trade in narcotics, preventing a refugee crisis and further economic collapse.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that if the Kabul regime wants diplomatic recognition it must allow safe passage for people wishing to leave, prevent Afghanistan again becoming a base for international terrorists, and respect the rights of women and girls.
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