OSLO, NORWAY - A Taliban delegation is expected to hold talks with Norwegian officials and Afghan civil society representatives in Oslo next week, the Norwegian foreign ministry said Friday.
The visit is scheduled from Sunday to Tuesday, and 'the Taliban will meet representatives of the Norwegian authorities and officials from a number of allied countries,' for talks on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and human rights, the ministry said.
The ministry did not specify which allies would attend, but Norwegian newspaper VG said they would include Britain, the European Union, France, Germany, Italy and the United States.
'We are extremely concerned about the grave situation in Afghanistan, where millions of people are facing a full-blown humanitarian disaster,' said Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt.
'In order to be able to help the civilian population in Afghanistan, it is essential that both the international community and Afghans from various parts of society engage in dialogue with the Taliban,' Huitfeldt added.
Stressing that Norway would be 'clear about our expectations,' particularly on 'girls' education and human rights,' Huitfeldt said the meetings would 'not represent a legitimization or recognition of the Taliban.'
'But we must talk to the de facto authorities in the country. We cannot allow the political situation to lead to an even worse humanitarian disaster,' Huitfeldt said.
The Taliban swept back to power in Afghanistan last summer as international troops withdrew after a two-decade presence. A U.S.-led invasion in late 2001 toppled the Taliban in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated drastically since August. International aid came to a sudden halt and the United States has frozen $9.5 billion (8.4 billion euros) in assets in the Afghan central bank.
Famine now threatens 23 million Afghans, or 55% of the population, according to the United Nations, which says it needs $5 billion from donor countries this year to address the humanitarian crisis in the country.