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The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution proposed by the United States facilitating humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, while keeping funds out of the Taliban's hands.
The resolution from Wednesday states that "payment of funds, other financial assets or economic resources, and the provision of goods and services necessary to ensure the timely delivery of such assistance or to support such activities are permitted."
It adds that such assistance supports "basic human needs in Afghanistan" and is "not a violation" of sanctions imposed on entities linked to the Taliban.
The West has struggled over how to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe since the Taliban took power in mid-August, prompting the U.S. to freeze $9.5bn in assets belonging to the Afghan central bank.
An earlier U.S. resolution sought to authorize case-by-case exemptions to sanctions blocked by veto-wielding permanent Security Council members China and Russia.
The Taliban welcomed the resolution on Wednesday: “We appreciate it (as) it can help Afghanistan’s economic situation,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said, adding he hoped the international community would also “speed up” the lifting of crippling economic and banking sanctions imposed on entities linked to the group.
The U.S. also announced additional steps on Wednesday easing sanctions against the Taliban to allow aid, updating guidance to clarify that exports of goods and cash transfers would be allowed so long as they do not go to individuals targeted by U.S. sanctions.
The decision to limit the scope of the resolution to one year aims to satisfy Washington’s European allies, who, like India, criticized the absence of any deadline and called for strict control over the destination of aid.
In Afghanistan, aid workers may be involved in financial transactions with ministries headed by sanctioned individuals, while the resolution ensures that the aid workers are not violating sanctions.
The text also contains monitoring the destination of aid and a United Nations report on the functioning of the assistance to be required every six months.
At a ministerial meeting in neighboring Pakistan on Sunday, UN undersecretary for humanitarian affairs, Martin Griffiths, emphasized the urgent "need for liquidity and stabilization of the banking system."
He argued it was "not only to save the lives of the Afghan people but also to enable humanitarian organizations to respond."
After the Taliban returned to power, the US froze $9.5 billion from the Afghan central bank and the World Bank also suspended all aid to Kabul.
On Wednesday, Russia openly called on the West to unfreeze such assets.
Similarly, the World Bank announced on December 10 that it would provide $280m in humanitarian aid to UNICEF and the World Food Programme by the end of December to be disbursed in Afghanistan.