France, UK to propose Kabul ‘safe zone’ to UN, Macron says
Taliban has assured 100 countries departures will continue from Afghanistan even after US troop withdrawal.
Macron said France was holding preliminary discussions with the Taliban about the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan [Zaid al-Obeidi/AFP]
29 Aug 2021
France, Germany and the United Kingdom are working on a United Nations proposal aimed at establishing a safe zone in Kabul to allow safe passage for people trying to leave Afghanistan, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday.
Macron, who said France had begun discussions with the Taliban to explore how further evacuations might proceed, said the resolution would be brought on Monday to an emergency UN Security Council meeting of veto-wielding members.
“There are some discussions to see how flights could be re-established,” Macron said in a TV interview broadcast by France’s TF1 on Sunday, adding that Qatar was also helping negotiations.
“What we have proposed, and what we plan to bring to the UN Security Council along with Britain and Germany is a solution that we have used before in other operations, which would involve creating a zone allowing people to arrive at that airport.”
Asked whether he was optimistic it could be accepted by the Taliban, Macron said it was too early to reach any conclusions, but he said it was worth pursuing.
“It can mobilise the whole international community, and it also puts pressure on the Taliban,” Macron said, adding they would have to show they were willing to respect humanitarian concerns.
Discussions with the Taliban did not mean France would necessarily recognise Taliban rule officially, Macron added.
“We have operations to carry out in Afghanistan – the evacuations. The Taliban are the ones in control … we have to have these discussions from a practical point of view. This does not mean there will be recognition,” Macron said.
On a visit to Mosul in Iraq, Macron said he was hopeful the resolution would be welcomed by other countries.
“I cannot see who could oppose enabling the safety of humanitarian operations,” Macron told reporters.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is convening a meeting on Afghanistan with the UN envoys for the UK, France, the United States, China and Russia – the Security Council’s permanent, veto-wielding members.
Macron said on Saturday that France was holding preliminary discussions with the Taliban about the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and the possible evacuation of more people.
US military forces, which have guarded the airport in Kabul, are due to withdraw by a Tuesday deadline set by President Joe Biden.
France is among the countries that have ended evacuations from Kabul airport, including for its diplomatic staff, who are now in France.
Meanwhile, the Taliban has assured 100 countries that it will continue to allow foreigners and Afghans with foreign travel papers to leave the country “in a safe and orderly manner”, even after the US troop withdrawal ends on Tuesday, the countries said in a statement on Sunday.
The 100-nation group includes the US, Britain, France and Germany.
“We have received assurances from the Taliban that all foreign nationals and any Afghan citizen with travel authorisation from our countries will be allowed to proceed in a safe and orderly manner to points of departure and travel outside the country,” the statement said.
“We are all committed to ensuring that our citizens, nationals and residents, employees, Afghans who have worked with us and those who are at risk can continue to travel freely to destinations outside Afghanistan,” added the statement, which was also signed by the European Union and NATO.
The group said it would continue issuing travel documents to “designated Afghans”, adding that “we have the clear expectation of and commitment from the Taliban that they can travel to our respective countries”.
China and Russia were not among the signatories to the document.
Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser to President Biden, said earlier on Sunday any Americans who elect to remain “are not going to be stuck in Afghanistan”.
The US has “a mechanism to get them out” if they choose to leave in the future, Sullivan added on the Fox News network, without elaborating.
“The Taliban have made commitments to us,” he said.