Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary Sophie Wilmès attended an extraordinary meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) on Tuesday 17 August by video conference, which was organised following the latest developments in Afghanistan, where the radical-Islamist Taliban have gained control of the country after a rapid advance.

Procedures for evacuating citizens are underway in various EU Member States, including Belgium. “Our first priority is the evacuation of our citizens and of the Afghans who have helped us in the past 20 years. Close collaboration and co-ordination with our American and international partners are of prime importance in this,” says Sophie Wilmès. “My fellow officials and I have also expressed our concern over temporary access to Kabul Airport, which may take some time. It is very important to this country that the allocation of arrival slots takes place in full transparency. It is also crucial that our American partners keep the airport open as long as is necessary. In together, out together. This applies in military terms, as well as in terms of consular assistance.”

As regards the medium term, Belgium repeated its plea for a political solution that is inclusive and negotiated. The aim will continue to be stability, safety for all Afghans and respect for human rights, in particular for women and girls. “In order to safeguard our values and principles, we and all of our partners need to ensure that we in the EU have the necessary levers, and use them too, to send a strong and united message to the Afghan authorities. An EU dialogue with the countries in the region will also be vital. This is both as regards migration, and to be able to exercise maximum influence on the course of politics in Afghanistan.”

For this country, a balance must be found between realism and caution, and we are prepared for all scenarios. “We need to determine what tools will be most suitable for exerting the necessary pressure on the Afghan actors. In this context, we must take account of a range of scenarios, including the worst-case scenario.”

For this country, the EU must continue to have great consideration for international security and the battle against terrorism in that region, bearing in mind that this was the initial aim of our involvement in Afghanistan.