UNITED NATIONS The U.N. Security Council renewed its Taliban sanctions regime on Monday, but made it easier for blacklisted people to get an exemption to travel outside of Afghanistan for peace and reconciliation talks.
U.S.-backed Afghan forces toppled the Taliban government in late 2001 when it refused to hand over al Qaeda militants, including Osama bin Laden, after the Islamist network's hijacked airliner attacks on the United States on September 11.
There are 132 individuals and four entities on the U.N. Security Council's sanctions list. Some diplomats hope the flexibility to grant travel exemptions will help induce moves toward peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.
The resolution "invites the government of Afghanistan, in close coordination with the High Peace Council, to submit for the committee's consideration the names of listed individuals for whom it confirms travel to such specified location or locations is necessary to participate in meetings in support of peace and reconciliation."
The Security Council's sanctions committee will require the passport or travel document number of the person traveling, the specific location to which they are expected to travel and the period of time - which cannot exceed nine months - during which they are expected to travel.
Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said the travel ban exemption is "more effective and more flexible so it can serve the purposes of the peace and reconciliation process that is going to be so important over the next two years in Afghanistan."
"It does that while sustaining proper oversight for the committee and it also sets the framework for closer cooperation between the Afghan Government and sanctions committee," Lyall Grant said in a statement.
France said on Sunday that officials from the Afghan government, the Taliban movement and other factions would meet this week near Paris to discuss the country's future. Foreign troops have started handing over security control to Afghan soldiers and police, a process due to be completed by the end of 2014. (Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Philip Barbara)