Turkish, Qatari officials plan Kabul trip to discuss airport mission with Taliban

ANKARA: Turkish and Qatari officials will meet in Doha on Monday (Dec 20) night and later travel together to Kabul to discuss a formal deal to operate the Afghan capital’s airport with the ruling Taliban, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.

Turkey has said it would be open to operating Kabul’s Hamid Karzai international airport along with Qatar, following the takeover of Afghanistan by the hardline Taliban in August, but only if its security demands are met.

The airport is landlocked Afghanistan’s main air link to the world at a time when millions in the isolated country face hunger with a harsh winter setting in. On Sunday, Islamic countries pledged to set up a trust fund for Afghanistan.

Ankara has been holding talks on Kabul airport with Doha and said it was working together with Qatar on keeping it operational. Reuters has reported that the United Arab Emirates also held talks with the Taliban to run the airport.

Cavusoglu said a Turkish company and a Qatari firm had signed a memorandum of understanding on running a total of five airports in Afghanistan, including Hamid Karzai, but did not name the other four.

“In this framework, we will present the interim government of Afghanistan with joint offers. Our colleagues are heading to Doha tonight and they will travel together to Kabul from there to discuss the issue with the interim government there,” he told a news conference in Ankara on Monday.

“If our conditions are met, we can operate the airports with Qatar. If the conditions are not met, there is no obligation for us to operate them,” he said.

The Qataris have helped run the airport along with Turkey after playing a major role in evacuation efforts following the chaotic US withdrawal in August. But the Taliban had not yet formalised any arrangement, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters in November.

The Taliban, which says it does not want any foreign forces on Afghan soil, remains largely an international pariah and its government has not been formally recognised by any country.

Cavusoglu also said a possible joint visit to Kabul with foreign ministers from other Islamic countries remained under discussion.


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