UK announces G7 leaders to discuss Afghanistan on Tuesday

By: AFP      Published: 11:10 PM, 22 Aug, 2021
UK announces G7 leaders to discuss Afghanistan on Tuesday

G7 leaders will discuss the crisis in Afghanistan on Tuesday in a virtual summit, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Sunday, a week after the Taliban retook power.

"It is vital that the international community works together to ensure safe evacuations, prevent a humanitarian crisis and support the Afghan people to secure the gains of the last 20 years," Johnson tweeted.

The United Kingdom currently occupies the chair of the grouping of wealthy nations comprising Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, and Johnson has been pushing for a meeting for the past week.

The Western allies have faced mounting criticism over their handling of the crisis in Afghanistan amid chaotic scenes as thousands of Afghans and foreigners try to flee Kabul following the hardline Islamist group's return to power.

Following a virtual meeting on Thursday G7 foreign ministers urged the Taliban to provide safe passage for those trying to flee the capital, the bloc's first formal statement on the crisis. In June, the G7 held its first in-person summit in nearly two years, in Cornwall southwest England, when coronavirus and confronting China's increasing assertiveness dominated the agenda.

Since then, the Taliban has launched a nationwide offensive and surprised the West by recapturing most of Afghanistan within weeks, as the United States and its allies withdrew from its two-decade military involvement there. The US, which has sent thousands of troops temporarily to try to secure the airport and help evacuate its nationals and Afghans who helped them, has set a deadline to complete the airlifts by August 31.

However, allies including the UK have suggested they would support extending the deadline, an issue likely to feature prominently at Tuesday's discussion. Johnson's office said the British leader also spoke to Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday about the crisis, as the Taliban focus on forming a government in Kabul.

"The leaders shared the view that any new government must be representative of Afghanistan's diverse population and protect the rights of women and minorities, and that the Taliban would be judged by their actions not their words on this," Downing Street said in a summary of their conversation.  "They agreed that countries must commit to burden-sharing on aid and refugees, noting that United Nations coordination would be central to that effort," it added.