Taliban Set Unacceptable Conditions for Attending a UN Meeting, Says UN Secretary-general

DOHA, Qatar (AP) -- The Taliban set unacceptable conditions for attending a U.N.-sponsored meeting about Afghanistan, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday.

Taliban demands included the exclusion of Afghan civil society members from the talks in Doha, Qatar, and treatment that amounted to official recognition of the Taliban as the country's legitimate rulers, Guterres said at the conclusion of a two-day meeting in Qatar.

The Taliban seized power in 2021, as U.S. and NATO forces withdrew following two decades of war. No country recognizes them as Afghanistan's government, and the U.N. has said that recognition is almost impossible while bans on female education and employment remain in place.

The two-day meeting in Doha brought together member states and special envoys. But the Taliban didn't attend because their demands had not been met.

"I received a letter (from the Taliban) with a set of conditions to be present in this meeting that were not acceptable," Guterres told a news conference. "These conditions denied us the right to talk to other representatives of Afghan society and demanded a treatment that would, to a large extent, be similar to recognition."

While he denied the Taliban absence was damaging the process, he said it would have been useful to discuss the meeting's conclusions with them. "It did not happen today. It will happen in the near future. I think we will find a solution to allow for the participation of the Taliban."

Taliban officials were not immediately available for comment.

The biggest point of contention between the international community and the Taliban are the bans imposed on women and girls. The Taliban insist the bans are a domestic matter and reject criticism as outside interference, but Guterres said meeting participants agreed it was essential to revoke the restrictions.

Another is the appointment of a U.N. special envoy, which the Taliban oppose.

Guterres said there needed to be "clear consultations" with the Taliban to have clarification of the envoy's role and who it could be to "make it attractive" from their point of view.

He said it was in the Taliban's interests to be part of the consultations.