Under-pressure Dominic Raab has continued the UK’s push for an international response to the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan.
Having been hit by demands to resign over his handling of the crisis, the foreign secretary on Thursday carried on with a series of calls with his counterparts across the world.
Mr Raab spoke with both Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, and Marise Payne, Australia’s foreign minister, as well as chairing a virtual meeting of G7 foreign ministers.
‘Are you going to resign, Mr Raab?’
His diplomatic scramble came as opposition parties called for him to go following the revelation he last week declined to call the Afghan foreign minister – as the Taliban closed in on Kabul – while he was on holiday in Crete.
Downing Street said they had “full confidence” in Mr Raab.
And, asked by reporters on Thursday morning if he planned to resign over the matter, the foreign secretary replied: “No.”
Thursday’s virtual meeting of G7 foreign ministers, chaired by Mr Raab as the UK currently holds the G7 presidency, preceded a planned virtual meeting of G7 leaders early next week – which will now be held at least seven days after Afghanistan’s capital Kabul was seized by the Taliban.
Spoke to @MarisePayne this morning about the situation in Afghanistan. The UK & Australia are united in evacuating our nationals & Afghans who have worked for us, & working together for a coordinated international response to tackle security threats & the humanitarian crisis.
— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) August 19, 2021
In a statement after Thursday’s meeting, Mr Raab said the G7 ministers had “underlined the importance of the Taliban holding to their commitments to ensure the protection of civilians” and were “deeply concerned by reports of violent reprisals in parts of Afghanistan”.
“The G7 ministers called for the Taliban to guarantee safe passage to foreign nationals and Afghans wanting to leave,” he added in a statement.
“G7 ministers also discussed the importance of close and effective cooperation among us in order to allow evacuations from Kabul.
“G7 ministers discussed the importance of the international community providing safe and legal resettlement routes.
“They concurred that the Taliban must ensure that Afghanistan does not become host to a terrorist threat to international security.”
The foreign secretary also chaired a meeting of G7 foreign ministers Pic: Simon Dawson/Downing St
After Mr Raab’s call with Mr Wang, the Chinese foreign minister was quoted as telling the foreign secretary that the international community should “encourage and guide” Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover, rather than “exerting more pressure”.
China has not officially recognised the Taliban as Afghanistan’s new rulers, but Mr Wang last month hosted Mullah Baradar, chief of the Taliban’s political office, in Tianjin and said the group were expected to play an important role in Afghanistan’s peace and reconstruction process.
In the call with Mr Raab, Mr Wang also said the international community should not use Afghanistan as a geopolitical battleground but should respect its independence and the will of its people, China’s ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement.
After Downing Street released pictures of Mr Raab’s call with Mr Wang, Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner tweeted: “Bit late mate. Unless you’re ringing the prime minister to resign we’re not really bothered about your PR photos of you pretending to be on the phone.
“Clear your desk and do us all a favour.”