KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan Taliban leaders met with British officials on Tuesday for the first time since taking power, a move the group hopes to pave the way for the country to fill its cash-strapped coffers as it is on the verge of economic collapse.

The Taliban’s meeting with British diplomats in the capital Kabul came a day after they met an Iranian delegation – another first since taking office – to discuss trade relations, a key driver of the Afghan economy.

The Taliban met Sir Simon Gass, senior representative of the British Prime Minister for the Afghan transition, and Martin Longden, charge d’affaires of the British mission in Afghanistan in Doha.

The meeting marked Britain’s first diplomatic visit to the country since the Taliban seized Kabul on August 15 and took control of Afghanistan after the United States left.

After the meeting, Longden tweeted that “substantial discussions” had taken place with Taliban leaders covering a wide range of topics, including the humanitarian crisis, terrorism and the importance of safe passage for British and Afghan nationals, and the rights of women and girls.

He did not officially recognize their government, a wish of the Taliban, and called the meeting a “test.”

“This is the start and unsurprisingly there are points of difference between us. But such tough challenges await Afghanistan (and beyond),” he tweeted. “It is fair to test whether we can engage pragmatically and find common ground, in the interests of both the UK and the people of Afghanistan.”

In a statement, the Taliban said they are committed to good relations with all countries. “In return, we want the international community to return the cash capital of the Afghan nation to our nation,” he said, referring to billions of Afghan assets frozen in US accounts.

The Taliban met with a delegation from neighboring Iran on Monday to regulate trade between the countries, Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi said. They agreed to increase trading hours at the Islam Qala border post from eight hours a day to 24 hours and better regulate tariff collection and improve road works. Customs are an essential source of domestic revenue for Afghanistan.

Aid-dependent Afghanistan is grappling with a liquidity crisis as assets remain frozen in the United States and disbursements from international organizations that once accounted for 75% of government spending have been lost. suspended.

In addition, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday that he wanted the Group of 20 great economic powers to set the conditions for the recognition of the Taliban, in particular by guaranteeing the rights of women and girls.

So far under the Taliban, young Afghan girls have been allowed to return to primary school, but older girls have not been allowed to go to high school and most women have not been allowed. to return to work.

Macron told France-Inter radio that world powers should tell the Taliban: “You absolutely have to give young girls in your country a future, and that’s one of the things we will look at before we recognize you.”

He said allowing all the girls to return to school was one of his concerns.

Macron also told France-Inter radio that he would raise the issue at the upcoming G20 summit in Rome later this month. Among other conditions of recognition, he said, should be that the Taliban allow humanitarian operations to continue, and condemn and refuse to cooperate with “Islamist terrorist groups” in the region.

Meanwhile, Taliban officials said Tuesday they arrested 11 members of the Islamic State group, a bitter rival and enemy of the insurgents, in Kabul. The Islamic State affiliate – based in the eastern province of Nangarhar – has claimed responsibility for a series of recent attacks targeting Taliban forces in eastern Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Karimi posted on Twitter that the raid took place on Sunday evening in the Fifth Police District in the Afghan capital. He did not provide any further details. The raid came just hours after a bombardment targeted the Eid Gah mosque in Kabul, killing at least five people.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack on the mosque on Monday night, saying in an article by its Amaq news agency that one of its suicide bombers targeted Taliban figures following a mourning service.

Sunday’s bombing was the deadliest attack in Kabul since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan with the departure of the last US troops on August 31. ISIS also claimed responsibility for the August 26 bombing that killed more than 169 Afghans and 13 US servicemen outside Kabul airport, where thousands were trying to reach the airport to escape. to the Taliban regime.

Information for this article was provided by Rahim Faiez and Maamoun Youssef of the Associated Press.

In this photo provided by the President’s Administrative Office, Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar meets with Sir Simon Gass, the British Prime Minister’s High Representative for the Afghan Transition, left, at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan on Tuesday October 10. 5, 2021. (President’s Administrative Office via AP)

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