France in talks with Taliban over evacuations

The operations France envisages would be “systematically negotiated with the Taliban,” in particular the security aspect.

France is holding discussions with the Taliban and Qatar with a view to retrieving Afghans on France’s list for evacuation who could not get out before France shut down operations at Kabul airport the night before.

French President Emmanuel Macron said the talks Saturday “remain fragile and very provisional.” He spoke at a news conference in Baghdad during the first leg of a two-day visit to Iraq. The emir of Qatar was among leaders present at a regional summit centered on Iraq co-organized by France.

“Our goal is that in the days, weeks months ahead … (France could) proceed with targeted evacuation operations of these men and women whom we identified,” Macron said, suggesting that airlines could be used “with security conditions that remain to be defined.” He did not further elaborate.

Such operations would necessarily take place in a “different framework” from the mass evacuations headed by the United States, which is set to pull out of Kabul on Tuesday. France made its last flight out Friday.

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The operations France envisages would be “systematically negotiated with the Taliban,” in particular the security aspect.

Macron also set out three “essential prerequisites” for discussing any future political relations with the Taliban, including that they “absolutely respect” humanitarian rights and the right of Afghans who want to leave to seek protection be able to do so, notably artists, intellectuals, journalists and women.

He said the Taliban must also respect a “red line” regarding all terrorist groups and respect human rights, in particular the dignity of women.

The French ambassador to Kabul, evacuated Friday, is to continue working in Paris in that function.

Since mid-August, France evacuated about 2,830 people, the great majority of them Afghans on some 15 flights after pulling out 630 personnel and their families in the spring.

France, which withdrew its troops from Afghanistan at the end of 2014, had also previously taken in 830 people working for the French army.

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