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G20 pledges aid to Afghan humanitarian crisis at special summit


Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan on August 15, the country – already grappling with drought and severe poverty after decades of war – has seen its economy collapse, raising the specter of a exodus of refugees.

“There was a convergence of views on the need to respond to the humanitarian emergency,” Draghi told reporters after a video conference.

US President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and many European leaders attended, but Chinese Presidents Xi Jinping and Russian Presidents Vladimir Putin did not respond, suggesting differing international positions on the emergency.

Draghi said the absence of the latter two leaders did not diminish the importance of the meeting hosted by Italy, the current G20 chairman.

“It was the first multilateral response to the Afghan crisis (…) multilateralism is coming back, with difficulty, but it is coming back,” Draghi said.

There was unanimous agreement among participants on the need to alleviate the crisis in Afghanistan, where banks are running out of money, officials have not been paid and food prices have skyrocketed, leaving millions people at risk of starvation.

Much of the aid effort will be channeled through the United Nations, but there will also be direct country-to-country assistance, despite the refusal of most states to formally recognize the hard-line Taliban government.

“It’s very difficult to see how you can help people in Afghanistan without involving the Taliban … but that doesn’t mean recognizing them,” Draghi said.

He said the Taliban would be judged by their actions, not their words, and the world was particularly concerned about the plight of women in this impoverished nation.

“At the moment, we are not seeing any progress,” Draghi said.

The White House said the leaders discussed “the critical need to maintain a laser focus on our enduring efforts to counter terrorism, including the threats of ISIS-K.”

In a joint statement after the meeting, G20 leaders called on the Taliban to attack militant groups operating outside the country. They said future humanitarian programs should focus on women and girls, and safe passage should be granted to Afghans who wish to leave the country.

Ahead of the meeting, China demanded that economic sanctions against Afghanistan be lifted and that billions of dollars in Afghan international assets be thawed and returned to Kabul.

The United States and Britain, where many assets are held, are resisting the effort, and there is no mention of the matter in the final statement.

Tuesday’s meeting comes less than three weeks before the official summit of G20 leaders in Rome on October 30 and 31, which is expected to focus on climate change, the global economic recovery, the fight against malnutrition and the Covid-pandemic. 19.