Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European Commission, on Tuesday announced an expanded support package to Afghanistan worth about $1.15 billion to try and contain a spiraling humanitarian crisis.
The package combines European Union aid “with the delivery of targeted support on basic needs in direct benefit of the Afghan people and neighbouring countries,” von der Leyen said in a Tweet just as a virtual gathering of Group of 20 leaders was getting underway.
Italy holds this year’s presidency of the G-20 but Prime Minister Mario Draghi had to push for weeks to get the extraordinary summit off the ground because of differences among the group’s members over how to deal with the Taliban militant group now governing Afghanistan, officials said. An attempt ahead of the event to work out a common line was dropped.
In the end, more than two-thirds of leaders participated in the virtual gathering, with the remainder represented by ministers, according to a G-20 official who asked not to be identified talking about confidential matters. China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin were among those who didn’t join.
But as leaders struggle to bridge differences over how best to deal with the militant organisation, Afghanistan is
careening towards ruin.
The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged countries to unfreeze assets and allow development aid to flow into the country or risk watching it collapse. Bolstering economy can be done without recognising the Taliban, he said.
The Taliban took power in August after two decades of war with America. Officially labeled a terrorist organization, they haven’t been given access to the country’s central bank reserves.
The G-20 leaders focused on humanitarian aid, safe passage out of Afghanistan, and how to prevent the country becoming a haven for terrorism.
China was represented by Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The Asian nation was the country most lukewarm to the summit, one of the officials said, and still hadn’t confirmed its participation when Italy set a date. Beijing has embraced the Taliban’s return, a stance that could allow it to tap into Afghanistan’s vast mineral resources and give China a target for expanding its massive Belt and Road infrastructure program.
Moscow, meanwhile, informed the Italian presidency earlier that both Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would be too busy to join, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. Putin was replaced by Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov and Kremlin special envoy Zamir Kabulov.