ZURICH (Reuters) – Switzerland has evacuated 292 people from Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis said on Tuesday, while Switzerland would examine whether it could help facilitate talks underway between the Taliban and the collapsed U.S.-backed government.
All local workers from the Swiss development office as well as their close family members have been able to leave Kabul or are safe at the capital’s airport, he said.
“I am relieved,” Cassis said, adding one of the biggest evacuations in Swiss history was nearing completion.
An aircraft bringing people back landed in Zurich early on Monday morning, while 66 people were still at Kabul airport and were due to leave in the next few hours.
There were still 15 Swiss citizens in Afghanistan, but no more Swiss evacuation flights were planned at this stage, the foreign minister added.
Repeating an earlier offer to provide the services of its good offices, Cassis said it remained to be seen whether and how Switzerland could mediate in the process of discussions between the Taliban and U.S.-backed government which collapsed.
Leaders of the Taliban, who have sought to show a more moderate face since capturing Kabul, have begun talks on forming a government that have included discussions with some old enemies from past governments, including a former president, Hamid Karzai.
“Talks between the Taliban and the former government are currently ongoing. It remains to be seen whether and how Switzerland can mediate in this process,” Cassis said. “We are always ready to render good service, be it as the host state of conferences or to facilitate talks, also in the case of Afghanistan.”
The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan remained precarious, he added, with Switzerland examining how it could support aid organisations in the region.
(Reporting by John Revill; editing by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi)