France confirms direct talks held with Taliban, evacuation continues

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France's foreign ministry has confirmed that talks have been held in recent days with representatives of the Taliban in both Kabul and the Qatari capital, Doha. This, in a bid to ease France's ongoing evacuations from the Afghan capital.

According to Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen, a French delegation lead by François Richier, former ambassador to Afghanistan (2016-2018) had met the group in the Qatari capital Doha on Thursday to discuss the situation on the ground in Afghanistan.

It was the first official meeting since the Taliban took control of the Afghan capital on 15 August.

France's foreign ministry said in a statement: "Operational contacts have indeed taken place in recent days with representatives of the Taliban movement, in Kabul as well as in Doha, in order to facilitate our current evacuation operations."

Last week French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian came under fire for saying he hoped to see the Taliban form an "inclusive" government in Afghanistan.

However Secretary of State for European Affairs Clement Beaune quickly ruled out any sort of political contact with the Taliban.

Evacuations continue

Beaune also said Friday that French evacuations could continue beyond Friday evening. Paris has so far evacuated more than 2,500 people.

US and allied forces are racing to complete evacuations of their citizens and vulnerable Afghans and to withdraw from Afghanistan by an 31 August deadline set by US President Joe Biden.

According to US General Hank Taylor, in the past 24 hours, 12,500 more people had been evacuated in 89 US and coalition flights.

The Pentagon reported late Friday that some 5,400 people were still waiting to be airlifted.

Some countries such as Switzerland and Italy ended their evacuation efforts on Friday afternoon.

UN Security Council condemns Kabul airport attacks

Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council on Friday condemned the deadly attacks at Kabul's airport as "especially abhorrent" for targeting civilians trying to flee the country after the Taliban came to power and people helping with the evacuation.

The council also insisted that the international community work together to punish those responsible.

"The members of the Security Council underlined the need to hold perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism accountable and bring them to justice," the statement by the 15-member council said.

It also "reiterated the importance of combating terrorism in Afghanistan to ensure the territory of Afghanistan should not be used to threaten or attack any country, and that no Afghan group or individual should support terrorists operating on the territory of any country."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for a meeting on Monday of the five permanent members of the council -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China.

The meeting comes as Britain and France are working to draft a UN resolution on Afghanistan.

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