BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union will need to engage with the Taliban but it will not rush into formally recognising the Islamist militant group as the new rulers of Afghanistan, a senior European Union official said on Wednesday.
Gunnar Wiegand, the European Commission's managing director for Asia and the Pacific, said official relations would only come about if the Taliban satisfies a series of conditions, including respect for human rights and unfettered access for aid workers.
"There is no doubt among (EU) member states and in the G7 context: we need to engage with the Taliban, we need to communicate with the Taliban, we need to influence the Taliban, we need to make use of the leverages which we have," he said.
"But we will not rush into recognising this new formation, nor into establishing official relations," he told members of the European Parliament in Brussels.
Wiegand said it is unclear whether the Taliban will be able to govern effectively, but for the EU a key condition for official relations will be the establishment of an inclusive and representative transitional government.
The Taliban has yet to name a new administration or reveal how they intend to govern, two weeks after they seized control of the capital, Kabul.
Wiegand said other conditions for recognising the Taliban will be allowing free passage to Afghans wishing to leave the country, refraining from retaliation against those affiliated to foreign powers or the former government, and preventing Afghanistan from becoming a haven for terrorists.
An assessment of what went wrong with the West's 20-year engagement with Afghanistan is needed, he said, referring to the chaotic evacuation of civilians and foreign forces from Kabul after the Taliban's sweep into the capital.
"We have to make an assessment of the reasons why such a meltdown was possible," Wiegand said. "We have to learn lessons for similar situations, and this will be an assessment which is starting now."
(Reporting by John Chalmers; Editing by Alistair Bell)