Turkey’s UN Rep says engagement with Taliban necessary

At this week’s UN Security Council meeting on Afghanistan, Turkish UN Representative Feridiun Sinirlioğlu has urged a cautious engagement with the new Taliban government. “We need to communicate with them to see if they will deliver on their promises. They [the Taliban] need to gain our trust by putting their words into action," he said.

This file photo shows Taliban fighters at a checkpoint in Kabul.

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At the United Nations Security Council special session on Afghanistan on Sept. 10, Turkey's UN Representative Feridun Sinirlioğlu said that the international community needs to engage with the Taliban in order to “see if they will deliver on their promises.”

Citing the need for a democratic government to ensure long-term stability in Afghanistan, he encouraged the collected body to take a gradual approach.

Sinirlioğlu especially highlighted the need for solidarity with the Afghan people and to hold the Taliban responsible for their actions.

Feridun Sinirlioğlu
Feridun Sinirlioğlu.

“We believe that gradual engagement is the right approach,” he said. “We need to communicate with them to see if they will deliver on their promises. They [the Taliban] need to gain our trust by putting their words into action.”

When the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan in August, they did so with promises of reform, amnesty, and rights for women. They claimed that their rule this time would be different than it was in the 1990s, which deprived women of most social rights and instituted a draconian system of punishment for many activities including music, drinking, and dancing.

There has been little evidence in the weeks since they came to power, however, that they will actually change their style of rule: most of the leaders named to the government are Taliban hardliners, and authorities have brutally cracked down on women’s protests in the capital, Kabul.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) at first struck a cautiously optimistic tone on the new Taliban government, encouraging talks and engagement with the hardline leaders. However, after the announcement of the interim government last week, Erdoğan struck a more cautious tone.

“We don't know how long this interim cabinet will last. All we have to do is to follow this process carefully,” Erdoğan said on Sept. 7. 

Some, including senior fellow of the European Council Aslı Aydıntaşbaş, in an interview with Voice of America, have said that Turkey is angling to be the conduit between the Taliban and the international community.

Sinirlioğlu at the UNSC meeting hinted at this, encouraging gradual engagement with the Taliban Afghan government, especially over issues like the continued operation of Kabul’s airport. Turkey was left to oversee the airport when U.S. troops left on August 31 and has been working with Qatar and the Taliban to resume normal flights in recent weeks.