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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Qatar helping to facilitate opening of Afghanistan humanitarian corridor: official

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Qatar initially sent a technical team to Afghanistan on Wednesday upon the Taliban’s request. 

Qatar is helping to facilitate the opening of humanitarian corridors for the entry of aid to Kabul and other Afghan ports, a senior Qatari official said on Friday.

“There are three parties engaged in discussions to resume operations at Kabul Airport. This includes Qatari technicians who have been on the ground for 48 hours to negotiate the steps that need to be taken,” Dr. Mutlaq bin Majed Al Qahtani, Qatar’s Special Envoy of the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Counterterrorism and Mediation in Conflict Resolution said.

A Qatari source with knowledge of the situation told Doha News that Dr. Al Qahtani was onboard the third Qatari jet to land in Kabul’s airport on Friday.

The facility has been closed since foreign troops withdrew ahead of the 31 August deadline.

“As an impartial mediator in this process, Qatar has engaged with all sides,” the Qatari envoy added.

“As of now, our priority with the Taliban includes guaranteeing a peaceful transfer of power and ensuring an inclusive and effective government is formed to serve the Afghan people,” he said.

Qatar has been closely working with the international community to evacuate Afghans and foreigners since the Taliban took over Kabul on 15 August.

The Gulf state – a key mediator between the former Afghan government, the Taliban and Western powers – has placed the resumption of operations on the civilian side of the Hamid Karzai International Airport at the top of its priorities.

Discussions held in Kabul are building on Doha’s previous efforts with international partners to ensure “a comprehensive political settlement for lasting peace” in the war-torn country is reached, that would also “fulfil the aspirations of its people for security, stability and development”, the source told Doha News.

Several countries – the US, UK, Netherlands and Japan – have asked Qatar to relocate their embassies in Kabul to Doha where they can resume diplomatic operations.

“Qatar also continues to work closely with the international community…to provide safe corridors and freedom of movement for those in Afghanistan and continue cooperation in the fight against terrorism to prevent any future instability in the region,” the Qatari source added.

Commenting on the cooperation between the international community, the Taliban and Qatar, Doha’s Assistant Foreign Minister Lolwah Al Khater told CNN earlier this week that “it will be a chance to facilitate a real discussion around the contested issues”.

On Wednesday, a Qatari technical team arrived in Kabul’s airport on a Qatar Airways-branded plane, making it the first aircraft to arrive at the facility following the completion of the troop withdrawal.

The Qatari jet carried a technical team to discuss the resumption of operations at the airport, sources confirmed to Doha News at the time.

The team launched the discussions based on a Taliban request, however no final agreement has yet been reached, the sources added, noting talks are still ongoing at the level of security and operation.

UK will not recognise Taliban any time soon, Raab says at Doha presser

Earlier reports, citing several Taliban officials, said talks between the Taliban, Qatar and Turkey are underway over the provision of technical support at the airport.

Commenting on the re-opening of the airport, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told the press on Thursday that he is “optimistic” that it will begin operating “as soon as possible”.

“We are working very hard and also engaging with the Taliban to identify what are the gaps and the risks in having the airport back up and running…and hopefully in the next few days we’ll hear some good news,” said Sheikh Mohammed.

Meanwhile, a UAE airplane carrying some 60 tonnes of food and health products landed in Kabul’s airport on Friday accompanied by Emirati officials.

Abu Dhabi is hosting former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani who ran away from Afghanistan as the Taliban arrived on the outskirts of Kabul. Reports said that he fled the country with “tonnes of cash”, though he has denied those allegations.

Speaking to Doha News last week, Taliban spokesman in Qatar Suhail Shaheen said Ghani should return the money to Afghans.

New government

Meanwhile, earlier reports said the Taliban was set to announce a new administration following Friday afternoon prayers, however no such news has been announced.

Sources from the insurgent group said Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar will lead the new government. Joining Baradar, Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, the son of late Taliban co-founder Mullah Omar, and Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai will assume senior positions be in the new government.

“All the top leaders have arrived in Kabul, where preparations are in final stages to announce the new government,” a Taliban official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Under the new administration, the Taliban’s supreme religious leader Haibatullah Akhundzada will be focusing on religious matters and governance in accordance with “Islamic rules.”

Despite previous claims that the government will be inclusive, the Taliban source said it will mainly consist of its own members. It would also include 25 ministries and a consultative council or Shura of 12 Muslim scholars.

Additionally, the source told Reuters that a grand assembly, a loya jirga, is planned within six-to-eight months that would gather elders and representatives across Afghan society to discuss a constitution and the structure of the future government.

On Friday, Afghan women took to the streets of Kabul calling on the militants to respect their rights and abide by promises to allow all females access to work and education.

Qatari technical team onboard first flight to land in Kabul airport

So far, there have been no reports over the inclusion of women in the government, despite the international community’s request to avoid sidelining any Afghans.

 

“We continue the dialogue with the Taliban on an ongoing basis that there is a rationalisation of their policy and discourse towards women,” said Qatar’s foreign minister on Wednesday, noting that women’s rights was at the top of the agenda at all talks between Afghan parties.

The establishment of a new government has become more important than ever, especially with the Afghan economy now on the brink of collapse.

On Thursday, the UN said its stockpiles of food in Afghanistan could run out this month, warning of a hunger crisis that will exacerbate the many challenges facing the country.

“We all want to avoid a humanitarian crisis, that will require the Taliban to ensure a permissive environment for aid workers,” UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in Doha this week.

UN humanitarian chief in Afghanistan Ramiz Alakbarov said about one third of Afghanistan’s population of 38 million does not know whether they will have a meal every day.

“By the end of September, the stocks which the World Food Programme has in the country will be out,” Alakbarov told reporters at a virtual news conference.

“We will not be able to provide those essential food items because we’ll be out of stocks,” he added.

This echoes previous concerns raised by the WFP, which said at least $200 million is needed in order to feed people in Afghanistan, especially with winter approaching and amid an ongoing drought.


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