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NATO Foreign Ministers Agree to Focus on Safe Evacuations from Afghanistan

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg holds an online news conference after a NATO Foreign Ministers video meeting following developments in Afghanistan, at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Aug. 20, 2021.

NATO foreign ministers, meeting Friday to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, agreed their immediate priority is the safe evacuation of citizens of alliance member states and at-risk Afghans from the country.

Foreign ministers from the 30-nation alliance met virtually and in person in Brussels to address the swift takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban earlier this week.

The ministers issued a joint statement in which they expressed their priority about evacuations and coordinated efforts to extract their nationals and key local staff from the country, in particular those who have assisted NATO’s efforts in Afghanistan.

In the statement, the foreign ministers called “on those in positions of authority in Afghanistan to respect and facilitate their safe and orderly departure, including through Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.”

At a news conference following the meeting, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that since the Taliban takeover, around 800 NATO civilian personnel have worked around the clock to maintain operations at the Kabul airport allowing thousands of people to leave.

The NATO foreign ministers also issued a warning to the Taliban telling them to end the violence around the country.

“The eyes of the world are on Afghanistan. … The Taliban must put an end to violence around the country, and uphold the fundamental rights of all Afghan citizens – men, women and children,” Stoltenberg told reporters.

Echoing the NATO statement, Stoltenberg said it expects the Taliban to uphold commitments to ensure that Afghanistan does not again become a haven for international terrorism.

Stoltenberg said NATO’s presence over the years, along with the support of the entire international community, has “allowed Afghans to make unprecedented social, economic and political progress. Any Afghan government which attempts to undo this progress risks international isolation.”

Some information for this report was provided by the Associated Press news service

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