UN chief asks Taliban to stop offensive, negotiate in good faith

United Nations, Aug. 14 (UNI) United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on Taliban militants to immediately halt their offensive against government forces and return to the negotiating table in good faith, in the interest of Afghanistan, and its people.

The top UN official told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York on Friday that humanitarian needs were “growing by the hour” and the country largely spinning out of control, as the Taliban reportedly captured the second-largest city Kandahar and the third-largest one Herat, closed in on the capital Kabul.

The Afghan Islamic Press and multiple other media outlets reported the fall of the strategically important southern and western trading hubs, bringing the number of the country’s 34 provincial capitals that have been taken since last week to over a dozen.

“Even for a country that has tragically known generations of conflict, Afghanistan is in the throes of yet another chaotic and desperate chapter — an incredible tragedy for its long-suffering people,” Guterres said.

The UN chief noted the fighting between Taliban and Afghan security forces for control of cities and towns, was “causing tremendous harm.” and “continued urban conflict will mean continued carnage,” with civilians inevitably paying the highest price.

“I call on all parties to take heed of the conflict’s heavy toll and its devastating impact on civilians. They all must do more to protect civilians.”

Guterres said he was “deeply disturbed” by reports of the Taliban imposing severe restrictions on human rights in the areas under their control, particularly targeting women and journalists.

“It is particularly horrifying and heartbreaking to see reports of the hard-won rights of Afghan girls and women being ripped away from them,” he continued.

The UN chief urged the international community, to make clear to the Taliban that seizing power through military force, was “a losing proposition. That can only lead to prolonged civil war or the complete isolation of Afghanistan.”

The secretary-general said there was still potential for stalled intra-Afghan talks taking place in Doha, Qatar, supported by the region and the wider international community, which could lead to a negotiated settlement.

“Only an Afghan-led negotiated political settlement can ensure peace,” he added, declaring that the world body was determined to contribute to a peace deal, “promote the rights of all Afghans and provide life-saving humanitarian help to the ever-increasing numbers of civilians in need.”

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