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G20 firm to tackle Afghan aid crisis

October 14, 2021 00:00:00

ROME, Oct 13 (Reuters): The Group of 20 major economies is determined to tackle the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, even if it means having to coordinate efforts with the Taliban, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Tuesday after hosting an emergency summit.

Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan on Aug 15, the country - already struggling with drought and severe poverty following decades of war - has seen its economy all but collapse, raising the spectre of an exodus of refugees.

"There has basically been a convergence of views on the need to address the humanitarian emergency," Draghi told reporters at the end of a video conference.

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

Draghi said the absence of the latter two leaders did not undercut the importance of the meeting organised by Italy, the current G20 chair.

"This 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 the participants about the need to alleviate the crisis in Afghanistan, where banks are running out of money, civil servants have not been paid and food prices have soared, leaving millions at risk of severe hunger.

Much of the aid effort will be channelled through the United Nations, but there will also be direct country-to-country assistance, despite a refusal by most states to officially recognise the hardline Taliban government.

"It is very hard to see how you can help people in Afghanistan without involving the Taliban... but that does not mean recognising them," Draghi said.

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

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