EU to hold meeting on Tuesday to discuss Afghanistan

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Members of Taliban forces gesture as they check a vehicle on a street in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 16, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer

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Aug 16 (Reuters) - European Union foreign ministers will hold a crisis meeting on Tuesday to discuss the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban, the bloc said on Monday, as countries race to evacuate citizens and local staff from a chaotic Kabul airport.

Five people were killed at the airport, witnesses said, as people tried to flee a day after Taliban insurgents seized the Afghan capital and declared the war against foreign and local forces over. read more

"Following latest developments in Afghanistan, and after intense contacts with partners in the past days and hours, I decided to convene an extraordinary VTC (video conference) of EU foreign ministers tomorrow afternoon for a first assessment," the EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Twitter.

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"Afghanistan stands at a crossroads. Security and wellbeing of its citizens, as well as international security are at play."

The European Union is also working with member states to find quick solutions for the relocation of local Afghan staff and their families to a safe place.

"The matter is extremely urgent, we take it very seriously and continue to work hard (...) on implementing rapid solutions for them and ensure their safety," a spokesperson for the bloc's executive Commission told Reuters.

The Commission does not give figures on the numbers of local Afghan staff employed for security reasons.

The EU foreign ministers will likely discuss the security situation in Afghanistan and also its implications for migration to Europe, a traditional destination for refugees, at their meeting on Tuesday.

Many EU member states are nervous that developments in Afghanistan could trigger a replay of Europe's 2015/16 migration crisis, when the chaotic arrival of more than a million people from the Middle East stretched security and welfare systems and fuelled support for far-right groups.

Austria, which says it will continue to deport rejected Afghan asylum seekers despite Kabul's seizure by the Taliban, suggested setting up "deportation centres" in neighbouring countries.

"Deportation centres in the region around Afghanistan would be one possibility. That requires the strength and support of the European Commission," Austria's Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said.

He added he would raise the matter at a crisis meeting with his EU counterparts on Wednesday that was called to discuss the migrant surge from Belarus to EU member Lithuania.

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Reporting by Sabine Siebold, Foo Yun Chee and Marine Strauss; Editing by Alex Richardson

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