KABUL: The United Nations’ deputy secretary-general met the deputy governor of Afghanistan’s Kandahar, provincial auth­orities said on Friday, a rare meeting by a foreign envoy with the Taliban’s leaders in its southern heartland.

Amina Mohammed is visiting Afghanistan this week and had already met Taliban authorities in Kabul, as well as UN staff and aid groups, to discuss ways to promote and protect women’s rights.

Her visit comes less than a month after Taliban authorities banned most female NGO workers, leading many NGOs to partially suspend operations.

A statement from Kandahar’s information office said Deputy Gover­nor Maulvi Hayat­ullah Mubarak had conveyed to Mohammed that the Taliban administration wanted to have a strong relationship with the world and asked that its leaders be removed from sanctions lists and its administration able to send a representative to the UN.

The UN’s mission to Afghanistan did not immediately respond to a request to confirm the meeting and what was discussed.

The UN in December postponed for a second time a decision on whether the Afghan Taliban administration would be able to send an ambassador to New York. Its administration has not been formally recognised by any government since sweeping to power as foreign forces withdrew in 2021.

The head of the Norwegian Refugee Cou­ncil, a major aid group that has suspended work in Afghanistan, stressed this month that it was important for the international community to engage with leadership in Kandahar, saying that many officials in Kabul had signalled the orders to restrict female workers had come from there.

Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2023

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