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Washington urged to release Afghan funds

By XU WEIWEI in Hong Kong | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-10-18 09:33

A view of a street market in Kabul, Afghanistan October 15, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

Concerns are growing over the United States' refusal to release the bulk of the $9.5 billion in reserves deposited abroad by the Afghan central bank.

The world should make an effort to enable the Taliban government to access these funds and help stave off an economic collapse in Afghanistan, state leaders said. They were joined by diplomats and scholars in advocating for the Taliban's access to these funds.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday: "Afghanistan's economy should not collapse. That is why countries which have frozen Afghanistan's assets abroad should be more flexible so that salaries can be paid."

Cavusoglu made the comment while hosting Afghanistan's acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi in Ankara, the Al Jazeera network reported.

Afghan officials have said the US is holding about $7 billion of the Afghan central bank's overseas reserves. Officials in the US have not stated a figure.

Speaking after the closed-door talks in the Turkish capital, Cavusoglu urged international engagement with the Taliban. "We have told the international community about the importance of engagement with the current Taliban administration."

The meeting followed talks by Taliban leaders with representatives of the United States, the European Union and some European nations in Qatar recently.

Amina Khan, director of the Centre for Afghanistan, Middle East and Africa at the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad, said it is essential that the world not only release the Afghan funds but also provide developmental and economic assistance "as the basic needs of Afghanistan people are not being met". As many as 14 million Afghans are experiencing hunger.

Caring about welfare

Salman Bashir, a former foreign secretary of Pakistan and former ambassador to China, said it seems for now that these reserves will stay blocked, with impossible conditions set for their release.

The world should care about the welfare of the Afghan people, he said.

On Tuesday, leaders of the Group of 20 nations discussed issues concerning Afghanistan in a virtual meeting. The European Union pledged aid of 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) to Afghanistan and neighboring countries. "We must do all we can to avert a major humanitarian and socio-economic collapse in Afghanistan," Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said in a statement.

Earlier this month in Doha, Muttaqi urged the US to unfreeze the reserves in his first in-person meeting with the US delegation since late August. The US has shown no signs that it will release the money.

Afghanistan's neighbors have also supported calls for the US-held funds to be released. A number of countries, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund halted aid to Afghanistan in August following the Taliban's seizure of Kabul.

Last month, both Pakistan and Qatar called on the US to unfreeze the assets.

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev also urged other countries to release Afghanistan's assets during a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in September.

Mustafa Hyder Sayed, executive director of the Pakistan-China Institute, said Afghan funds in New York are being used to serve political interests in the US.

Agencies contributed to this story.

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