KABUL: The European Union said on Friday (Jan 21) it was re-establishing a physical presence in Afghanistan for humanitarian purposes, but stressed it was not formally recognising the Taliban-led administration.
It was the first such announcement by a Western power since the 27-nation EU and many governments withdrew staff and diplomats from Afghanistan as Kabul fell to the hardline Islamist Taliban last August.
"The EU has started to re-establish a minimal presence of international EU Delegation staff to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid and monitor the humanitarian situation," said European Commission foreign affairs spokesman Peter Stano.
A Taliban foreign ministry spokesman had earlier said in a Tweet that its officials had reached an understanding with the EU, which had "officially opened its embassy with a permanent presence in Kabul & practically commenced operations".
The EU spokesperson stopped short of saying the mission had been formally re-opened.
"Our minimal presence in Kabul must not in any way be seen as recognition. This has also been clearly communicated to the de facto authorities," he said.
Also on Friday, the Norwegian foreign ministry said it had invited Taliban representatives to Oslo on Jan 23 for talks with representatives of the international community and Afghan civil society members.
Governments globally have been grappling with how to avoid formally recognising the Taliban, which swept to power on Aug 15 as foreign forces withdrew, while working to stem a growing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
Many countries have ramped up humanitarian aid – aimed at urgent needs and largely bypassing government channels – as most development aid to the country has been cut off and strict restrictions placed on the banking sector due to sanctions against members of the militant group.
The EU on Tuesday announced it was launching projects worth 268.3 million euros (US$304.06 million), mostly to be channelled through United Nations agencies focused on health, education and displaced people.