(Bloomberg) -- United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on countries to unfreeze assets and allow development aid to flow into the Afghanistan economy or risk watching it collapse.

Bolstering Afghanistan’s economy can be done without recognizing the Taliban, the militant group that took over in August after two decades of war with the U.S., Guterres told reporters at the UN on Monday. Without an infusion of cash to bolster the economy, banks will continue to close while essential services, such as health care, will be interrupted, he said.

“We need to find ways to make the economy breathe again,” Guterres said. “This can be done without violating international laws or compromising principles.”

The country’s new rulers lost access to more than $9 billion in central bank reserves after the Biden administration froze assets held at U.S. banks in mid-August, with other countries following Washington’s lead. Funding from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund is also on hold.

In the weeks since former President Ashraf Ghani’s government fell, Guterres said UN agencies and nongovernmental organizations have been “acting with the cooperation of the Taliban, who have progressively granted access to the areas requested and provided security when needed.” He said the number of security incidents during humanitarian operations has been in constant decline.

“Humanitarian assistance saves lives,” he said. “But it will not solve the problem if the economy of Afghanistan collapses.” 

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