UN-led Doha meeting with Taliban not about recognition, says UN

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By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A United Nations-led meeting with Afghanistan's Taliban in Qatar this weekend will not be a discussion about international recognition of the group, U.N. political affairs chief Rosemary DiCarlo said on Wednesday.

The meeting, which will also be attended by envoys from some 25 countries, will be the third such meeting in Doha, but the first attended by the Taliban, which has not been internationally recognized since seizing power in August 2021 as U.S.-led forces withdrew after 20 years of war.

"This is not a meeting about recognition. This is not a meeting to lead to recognition ... Having engagement doesn't mean recognition," DiCarlo told reporters. "This isn't about the Taliban. This is about Afghanistan and the people."

The U.N.-led meeting aims to engage with the Taliban, who have cracked down on women's rights since returning to power, on a way to improve the lives of millions of Afghans. The meeting this weekend is due to focus on engagement going forward, along with sessions on private sector business and counter-narcotics.

Rights groups criticized the U.N. for not having Afghan women at the table with the Taliban in Doha. U.N. officials and the country envoys attending the Taliban meeting are also due to meet separately with Afghan civil society groups.

"I want to emphasize - this is a process. We are getting a lot of criticism: Why aren't women at the table? Why aren't Afghan women at the table? Why is civil society not at the table? This is not an inter Afghan dialogue," DiCarlo said. "I would hope we could get to that someday, but we're not there."

Since the Taliban returned to power, most girls have been barred from high school and women from universities. The Taliban have also stopped most Afghan female staff from working at aid agencies, closed beauty salons, barred women from parks and curtailed travel for women in the absence of a male guardian.

The Taliban say they respect rights in line with their interpretation of Islamic law.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Sonali Paul)