Qatar's foreign minister visits premier of Taliban-ruled Afghanistan

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani attends talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (not seen) in Moscow, Russia September 11, 2021. Alexander Nemenov/Pool via REUTERS

CAIRO (Reuters) -Qatar's foreign minister held talks with the prime minister of Taliban-ruled Afghanistan on Sunday, in the highest-level foreign visit to Kabul since the militant group seized the capital last month.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani called upon the country's new rulers to "involve all Afghan parties in national reconciliation" when he met Prime Minister Mullah Muhammad Hasan Akhund, Qatar's foreign ministry said.

Qatar is considered one of the countries with the most influence over the Taliban and played a pivotal role in the massive U.S.-led airlift of its own citizens, other Western nationals and Afghans who helped Western countries.

The Qatari capital Doha also hosted the Taliban's political office, which oversaw the negotiations with the United States that eventually led to the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

Sheikh Mohammed and new premier Akhund also discussed "concerted efforts to combat terrorist organizations that threaten the stability of Afghanistan", ways to enhance peace in the country and the safe passage of people, according to the Qatar ministry.

Sheikh Mohammed met the prime minister and a number of other senior ministers, a Taliban spokesman said.

"The meeting focused on bilateral relations, humanitarian assistance, economic development and interaction with the world," according to the Taliban.

Sunday's meeting in the presidential palace was attended by a number of other Afghan ministers including Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Salam Hanafi, Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, Defence Minister Yaqoob Mujahid, Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani and intelligence chief Abdul Haq Wasiq.

The Taliban said the leadership of the Islamic Emirate, the term used by the group to describe the new order in Afghanistan, thanked the Qatar government for supporting the Afghan people.

The Doha agreement, signed by the United States and the Taliban, was a "landmark achievement, all sides should adhere to its implementation", the Taliban added.

Qatar's Sheikh Mohammed also met Abdullah Abdullah, a senior official in the previous Afghan government, and former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the foreign ministry said.

(Reporting by Ahmad Elhamy, James Mackenzie and Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Catherine Evans/Raissa Kasolowsky/Pravin Char)

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