"We are extremely concerned about the grave situation in Afghanistan, where millions of people are facing a full-blown humanitarian disaster," said Norwegian foreign minister Anniken Huitfeldt.

"In order to be able to help the civilian population in Afghanistan, it is essential that both the international community and Afghans from various parts of society engage in dialogue with the Taliban," Huitfeldt added.

Stressing that Norway would be "clear about our expectations," particularly on "girls' education and human rights," Huitfeldt said the meetings would "not represent a legitimisation or recognition of the Taliban."

"But we must talk to the de facto authorities in the country. We cannot allow the political situation to lead to an even worse humanitarian disaster," Huitfeldt said.

The Taliban swept back to power in Afghanistan last summer as international troops withdrew after a two-decade presence. A US-led invasion in late 2001 toppled the Taliban in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated drastically since August. International aid came to a sudden halt and the United States has frozen US Dollars 9.5 billion (8.4 billion euros) in assets in the Afghan central bank.

Famine now threatens 23 million Afghans, or 55 per cent of the population, according to the United Nations, which says it needs US Dollars 5 billion from donor countries this year to address the humanitarian crisis in the country.

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