The United States has rejected discussions about recognizing Afghanistan's Taliban leadership at a U.N.-hosted meeting scheduled for May 1-2.
"The intent and purpose of this meeting was never to discuss recognition of the Taliban, and any discussion at the meeting about recognition of the Taliban would be unacceptable," a U.S. official told VOA on Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The rebuttal came after U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed shared details of the planned meeting in Qatar, suggesting the recognition issue would be on the agenda.
"We hope that we will find those baby steps to put us back on the pathway to recognition … of the Taliban. In other words, there are conditions," Mohammed told a seminar at Princeton University on Monday.
That discussion has to happen because Taliban authorities demand diplomatic recognition, and "that's the leverage we have,” she stressed.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will host the two-day meeting in Doha of envoys from countries around the world, but the deliberations will not focus on recognition of the Taliban, his office reiterated Thursday.
“The point of the discussion, which will be held in a closed, private setting, is to build a more unified consensus on the challenges at hand,” U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters in New York.
“There’s a need to reinvigorate international engagement around the sort of common objectives that the international community has on Afghanistan. So, we consider it a priority to advance an approach-based pragmatism and principles to have a constructive engagement on the issue.”
Taliban chief spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid demanded Thursday that the U.N. "fulfill its responsibility" toward the people of Afghanistan.
The "Islamic Emirate wants the recognition process to be completed soon. It will build mutual trust with world countries and help resolve all issues that can benefit regional security and stability," Mujahid told VOA by phone. He used the official title of the Taliban government.
Mohammed's remarks sparked a backlash from Western critics and self-exiled members of the Afghan diaspora, including rights activists and former government officials, citing restrictions the Taliban have imposed on women's access to public life.
On Wednesday, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric attempted to explain Mohammed's comments, saying the recognition issue was "clearly in the hands of the member states" and that she was reaffirming the need for an internationally coordinated approach.
"She was not in any way implying that anyone else but member states have the authority for recognition," Dujarric said.
The 193-member U.N. General Assembly in December postponed for a second time a decision on whether to recognize the Taliban government by allowing its leaders to appoint their ambassador to the United Nations.
The Taliban seized power in August 2021 from the then-internationally backed Afghan government as U.S.-led NATO troops withdrew following 20 years of engagement in the country.
The Taliban’s men-only administration has since banned most female government employees from work and teenage girls from seeking education beyond grade six.
Afghan female staffers have recently been barred from working for the U.N. and nongovernmental organizations in a country where millions of families need urgent assistance.
The Taliban dismiss criticism of their governance, saying it aligns with Afghan culture and Islamic law.
Patsy Widakuswara contributed to this report.