ISLAMABAD (AP) — A Taliban delegation on Sunday attended a United Nations-led meeting in Qatar on Afghanistan after organizers said women would be excluded from the gathering.

The two-day meeting is the third U.N.-sponsored gathering on the Afghan crisis in the Qatari capital of Doha.

Zabihullah Mujahid, the chief spokesman for the Taliban government who leads its delegation, wrote on social media platform X that the delegation met with representatives from countries including Russia, India and Uzbekistan on the sidelines of the meeting.

The Taliban were not invited to the first meeting, and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said they set unacceptable conditions for attending the second one in February, including demands that Afghan civil society members be excluded from the talks and that the Taliban be treated as the country’s legitimate rulers.

The Taliban seized power in August 2021 as U.S. and NATO forces were in the final weeks of their pullout from the country following two decades of war. No country has officially recognized the Taliban as Afghanistan’s government, and the U.N. has said recognition is almost impossible while bans on female education and employment remain in place.

Mujahid on Saturday in the capital, Kabul, told reporters the delegation was going to Doha “to seek understanding and resolve issues.”

“We urge all countries not to abandon the Afghan people in difficult times, and actively participate in Afghanistan’s reconstruction and economic strengthening,” he said.

He said they would discuss issues including international restrictions imposed on Afghanistan’s financial and banking system, challenges in growing the private sector and government actions against drug trafficking.

Earlier, the United Nations’ top official in Afghanistan, Roza Otunbayeva, defended the failure to include Afghan women in the meeting in Doha, insisting that demands for women’s rights are certain to be raised.

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