Riyadh/Dubai, Aug 24 (EFE).- Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states are wary of the Taliban’s seizure of power in Afghanistan over fears it could lead to the resurgence of extremist groups in the region but are open to the change taking place in Kabul.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were among the countries that established relationships with the Taliban when they ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.
But both nations severed those ties after the September 11 attacks on the United States and the movement’s refusal to turn over Osama bin Laden, the Saudi founder of the militant Islamist organization al-Qaeda, to his native land.
When armed groups in the Gulf such as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Palestinian factions, and even the Lebanon-based Shiite Hezbollah group welcomed the Taliban’s takeover, it worried Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
“These are legitimate fears on the part of the Gulf governments,” Ali Bawazeer, a Saudi political analyst, tells Efe, stressing that his country’s government “has not forgotten the Taliban’s support for bin Laden and their refusal to hand him over.”
“Saudi spokesmen condition their relationship (with the Taliban) on Afghanistan not hosting groups that use weapons to promote change, based on an extremist interpretation of Islamic texts that make Saudi territories and civilians legitimate targets of attacks”, he adds.
The kingdom that houses Islam’s two holiest sites of Mecca and Medina has been targeted several times, despite the strict religious rules applied there.
In recent years, Riyadh has launched Vision 2030, an ambitious project that aims to diversify Saudi Arabia’s oil-reliant economy by opening to tourism and holding recreational events that had previously been banned since the 1980s.
“Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states would accept a relationship and recognize the Taliban if they broke ties with radical armed groups,” Bawazeer explains.
On Sunday, the 57-nation Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) met in the Saudi city of Jeddah and called on the Taliban not to make Afghanistan “a refuge for terrorism and extremism.”