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Turkey, Qatar, US in discussion with Taliban on operating Kabul Airport
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 07 - 09 - 2021

Turkey, Qatar and the US are working to operate Karzai International Airport in the Afghan capital, Kabul, through talks with the Taliban, said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu Tuesday.
During an interview with Turkish broadcaster NTV, Cavusoglu affirmed that about 19 Turkish technicians held talks with Qatari officials in Kabul regarding the operation of the airport.
Moreover, the Turkish minister suggested hiring a security company trusted by the international community to operate the airport.
Earlier, Turkey had informed the Taliban that it would not participate in the mission of operating the airport unless Turkish forces take part in ensuring security.
Qatar said earlier that it is working with the Taliban to quickly reopen Kabul's airport, whose closure since the departure of US troops could pose major strategic and humanitarian challenges.
A jet from the Gulf country was the first foreign aircraft to land in the Afghan capital recently since frenzied evacuations ended a day earlier with the American withdrawal.
Doha, a major transit point for Afghan refugees, said it was working hard to swiftly resume operations at Kabul airport.
"We remain hopeful that we will be able to operate it as soon as possible," said Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, whose country has close contacts with the Taliban which assumed control of Kabul on Aug. 15.
"It's very important... that the Taliban demonstrate their commitment to provide safe passage and freedom of movement for the people of Afghanistan," said Sheikh Mohammed.
"Hopefully in the next few days we will hear some good news," he added. Sheikh Mohammed said discussions about reopening the airport also included Turkey, which he hoped could provide technical assistance.
Turkey said it was "evaluating" proposals from the Taliban and others on the airport, with Cavusoglu saying security "inside and outside" the facility remained the top priority. An Afghan civil aviation official told Qatar-owned Al Jazeera that Kabul would begin airport operations "soon".
"Domestic flights will begin Friday, as for international, it'll take time," he said.
Doha, where the Taliban has a political office, has in recent months hosted a flurry of talks between the US, Taliban and the former Afghan government.
The wealthy country sent a Boeing C-17 Globemaster carrying a technical team, with the challenge to put in a place a crew to help the Taliban run airport facilities.
The airport, with a single runway, is located only five kilometers from downtown Kabul — forcing planes to go into a holding pattern over the city in case they cannot land immediately.
Reopening the airport has been addressed by a host of Western officials who have visited Qatar this week, including the German, Dutch and British foreign ministers.
Italy's foreign minister is expected in Doha on Sunday. On Thursday, British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said his country has evacuated some 17,000 British and Afghan nationals since April, reiterating that those left behind — including those most at risk — can travel to the UK.
"That's why we watch with great interest what may be possible at Kabul airport," he said. — Agencies


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