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Under-pressure Raab ignores calls to quit and continues diplomatic scramble over Afghanistan crisis

Written by on 19/08/2021

Under-pressure Dominic Raab has continued the UK’s push for an international response to the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan.

Having been hit by demands to resign over his handling of the crisis, the foreign secretary on Thursday carried on with a series of calls with his counterparts across the world.

Mr Raab spoke with both Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, and Marise Payne, Australia’s foreign minister, as well as chairing a virtual meeting of G7 foreign ministers.

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‘Are you going to resign, Mr Raab?’

His diplomatic scramble came as opposition parties called for him to go following the revelation he last week declined to speak with the Afghan foreign minister – as the Taliban closed in on Kabul – while he was on holiday in Crete.

Downing Street said they had “full confidence” in Mr Raab.

And, asked by reporters on Thursday morning if he planned to resign over the matter, the foreign secretary replied: “No.”

Thursday’s virtual meeting of G7 foreign ministers, chaired by Mr Raab as the UK currently holds the G7 presidency, preceded a planned virtual meeting of G7 leaders early next week – which will now be held at least seven days after Afghanistan’s capital Kabul was seized by the Taliban.

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In a statement after Thursday’s meeting, Mr Raab said the G7 ministers had “underlined the importance of the Taliban holding to their commitments to ensure the protection of civilians” and were “deeply concerned by reports of violent reprisals in parts of Afghanistan”.

“The G7 ministers called for the Taliban to guarantee safe passage to foreign nationals and Afghans wanting to leave,” he added in a statement.

“G7 ministers also discussed the importance of close and effective cooperation among us in order to allow evacuations from Kabul.

“G7 ministers discussed the importance of the international community providing safe and legal resettlement routes.

“They concurred that the Taliban must ensure that Afghanistan does not become host to a terrorist threat to international security.”

19/08/2021. London, United Kingdom. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab calls G7 Foreign Ministers to discuss Afghanistan at the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office in London. Pic: Simon Dawson/ Downing St
Image: The foreign secretary also chaired a meeting of G7 foreign ministers Pic: Simon Dawson/Downing St

After Mr Raab’s call with Mr Wang, the Chinese foreign minister was quoted as telling the foreign secretary that the international community should “encourage and guide” Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover, rather that “exerting more pressure”.

China has not officially recognised the Taliban as Afghanistan’s new rulers, but Mr Wang last month hosted Mullah Baradar, chief of the Taliban’s political office, in Tianjin and said the group were expected to play an important role in Afghanistan’s peace and reconstruction process.

In the call with Mr Raab, Mr Wang also said the international community should not use Afghanistan as a geopolitical battleground but should respect its independence and the will of its people, China’s ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement.

 Sky News

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