UPDATE - Afghan Taliban confirms meeting with US officials in Doha late this week

UPDATE - Afghan Taliban confirms meeting with US officials in Doha late this week

US officials will also meet 'technocratic professionals' from key Afghan ministries to discuss security, women's rights, says State Department

UPDATE: CHANGES HEADLINE, DECK, ADDS TALIBAN STATEMENT

By Iclal Turan and Islamuddin Sajid

WASHINGTON / ISLAMABAD (AA) – The interim Taliban administration in Afghanistan on Thursday confirmed a meeting between its top diplomat and US officials in Doha, Qatar late this week.

Abdul Qahar Balkhi, spokesman for the interim Afghan Foreign Ministry, said acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi along with a high-level delegation will visit to meet with US officials.

"For Afghanistan, in these talks, ending sanctions and blacklists [of Taliban leaders], the release of Afghanistan's bank reserves, and discussion on the violation of Afghanistan's airspace should be prioritized," Balkhi said in a Pashto language tweet.

He added that the Afghan delegation will also meet Qatari officials.

Earlier the State Department said US officials will meet Taliban representatives and "technocratic professionals" from key Afghan ministries during a visit to Doha this week.

"Priority issues will include humanitarian support for the people of Afghanistan, economic stabilization, fair and dignified treatment of all Afghans, including women and girls, security issues, and efforts to counter narcotics production and trafficking," the department said in a statement.

The Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in August 2021 as officials of the US-backed Kabul administration fled the country and foreign forces withdrew.

Since then, the US has not recognized the Taliban government and has also imposed sanctions.

The meeting "does not indicate any change in policy of the United States," State Department Deputy spokesman Vedant Patel told a news conference when asked by Anadolu about the sit-down.

"We have been very clear that we will engage with the Taliban appropriately when it is in our interest to do so. This is not intended to mean any kind of indication of recognition or any kind of indication of normalization or legitimacy of the Taliban," said Patel.

Noting his previous comments on the US' "continued concerns about backsliding in Afghanistan," including human rights abuses against women and girls, Patel said: "All of those things and many others continue to be of immense concern to the United States."

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West and Special Envoy for Afghan Women, Girls, and Human Rights Rina Amiri are currently in the middle of visits to Kazakhstan and Qatar through next Monday.

In Astana, they will meet colleagues from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan for a C5+1 Special Session on Afghanistan as well as civil society members focused on advancing women’s economic empowerment in Afghanistan and Kazakhstan.

The C5+1, which includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, was formed under former US President Barack Obama during the 2015 UN General Assembly. It is the US' main dialogue platform with regional states.

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