Dominic Raab has said the UK needs to engage with the Taliban and that the militant group’s “first test” will be if it opens Kabul airport and allows safe passage of people trying to leave the country.
The foreign secretary said “we don’t recognise governments, we will not be recognising the Taliban, but we do see the need to have direct engagement, otherwise we can’t relay messages, we can’t get their response”.
Raab met with Qatari foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in Doha today to speak about the situation in Afghanistan, with the pair holding a press conference this morning.
The Taliban has an official base in Qatar and the country’s government is seen as a bridge to the Islamist group for the west.
There are still hundreds of Afghanis with British visas that are stuck in the country, after the UK finished its evacuations this week and the Taliban closed the airport.
Abdulrahman Al-Thani said there was “no clear indication” when the airport would be open again, but that he was “engaging with Taliban to identify the gaps and the risks for having the airport up and running”.
Raab said that safe passage of people out of Afghanistan will be the “first test” for the new regime in the eyes of the UK and other allies.
“We feel a responsibility to ensure the remaining British nationals and Afghan workers come to the UK, that’s why we watch with great interest to what is happening at Kabul airport,” he said.
“We all want to avoid a humanitarian disaster or crisis – that will require the Taliban to provide and ensure a permissive environment for aid workers.
“We will be judging the Taliban by their actions, not their words.”
The foreign secretary was yesterday not able to put a number on how many Afghans eligible to come to the UK failed to get out, saying it was in the “low hundreds”.
However, there have been some suggestions that this number is far greater and could be in the thousands.