Representatives of 57 Muslim countries gather on Sunday in Islamabad, Pakistan, for an extraordinary meeting devoted to the humanitarian crisis in neighboring Afghanistan, which is also a diplomatic test for the leadership of the new Taliban.
The meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is the first major conference on Afghanistan since the fall of the previous US-backed government in August.
After the Taliban’s swift return to power, the international community froze several billion dollars in aid and assets, posing the risk of a major humanitarian crisis in the country of 38 million people, as winter approaches.
According to the United Nations, Afghanistan is facing “one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the world” while the United Nations World Food Program has warned of a “stream of famine” in the future.
On Sunday, Islamabad’s administrative heart will be completely closed to the public, surrounded by barbed wire fences and roadblocks imposed for soldiers and police.
The one-day summit is expected to end with promises of help on Sunday evening.
Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaki is among the expected delegates to the Pakistani parliament, along with representatives from the United States, China, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.
According to the Pakistani authorities, the meeting is attended by 70 delegations.
No country has yet recognized the Taliban government that seized power in mid-August, and with the complete withdrawal of US forces, diplomats will have the delicate task of helping the Afghan economy without supporting the Islamic regime.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the meeting would speak “on behalf of the Afghan people” and not “a particular group” of the population.
Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates were the only three countries that recognized the former Taliban regime, from 1996 to 2001.
According to Qureshi, “there is a difference between recognizing the new regime in Kabul and dealing with it.”
“We have to encourage them through persuasion and incentives to go in the right direction. The policy of coercion and intimidation has not worked. If it worked, we would not be in this situation,” he told reporters before the summit.
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