Members of the United Nations Security Council remained divided on Monday over whether to exempt some of Afghanistan’s Taliban officials from a travel ban, diplomatic sources said.
Under a 2011 Security Council resolution, 135 Taliban leaders are subject to a sanctions regime that includes asset freezes and travel bans.
Thirteen of them benefited from an exemption from the travel ban, regularly renewed, to allow them to meet with officials from other countries abroad.
But that exemption ended last Friday after Ireland objected to its automatic renewal for another month.
In June, the 15-member Security Council’s 15-member Sanctions Committee on Afghanistan had already delisted two Taliban ministers in charge of education, in retaliation for drastic cuts to women’s and girls’ rights imposed by hard-line Islamic regime.
According to diplomatic sources, some Western countries would like to further reduce the list.
They point to a failure to honor commitments to protect human rights or fight terrorism made by the Taliban when they returned to power a year ago.
Earlier this month, the United States announced the killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a drone strike in Kabul, calling into question the Taliban’s pledge not to harbor militant groups.
China and Russia, however, supported a regular extension of the exemption list.
“These exemptions are still as necessary,” the Chinese presidency of the Security Council said last week, deeming it “counterproductive” to link human rights to travel issues for Taliban officials.
Since last week and again on Monday, several compromise proposals that would more or less shrink the list of officials in question, or the number of authorized destinations, have been rejected by both sides, according to diplomatic sources.
Discussions are expected to continue.
Pending a possible decision, none of the Taliban officials on the sanctions list can travel.
This was of particular concern to the Taliban’s foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, who has visited Qatar several times in recent months for diplomatic discussions and was among the 13 exceptions.
In a statement posted on Twitter on Saturday, a foreign ministry spokesman urged the Security Council “not to use sanctions as a means of pressure” and said all sanctions against Taliban officials should be lifted.
“If the travel ban is extended, it will create distance rather than promote dialogue and engagement, an outcome that must be prevented,” the spokesman said.