G20 tackles Afghan crisis at special summit

G20 tackles Afghan crisis at special summit

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi hosted a special summit of the Group of 20 major economies on Tuesday to discuss Afghanistan, as worries grow about a looming humanitarian disaster following the Taliban's return to power.

"The summit’s focus points include urgent humanitarian support for the Afghan population, the fight against terrorism, freedom of movement inside the country and open borders," Draghi's office said in a brief statement.

The video conference kicked off at 1.00 p.m. (11:00 GMT) and was due to last around 2-1/2 hours, Reuters reported.

U.S. President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Europe's G20 leaders were expected to take part. However, Chinese President Xi Jinping did not dial in and it was not clear if Russian President Vladimir Putin would participate, underscoring differing international positions on the emergency.

The U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres joined Tuesday's summit, highlighting the central role being given to the United Nations in dealing with Afghanistan - in part because many countries don't want direct relations with the Taliban.

Two neighbouring states, Pakistan and Iran, were not invited to join Tuesday's G20 call, but Qatar, which has played a key role as an interlocutor between the Taliban and the West, was taking part.

Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan on August 15, the country - already struggling with drought and severe poverty after decades of war - has seen its economy all but collapse, raising the spectre of an exodus of refugees.