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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Qatar, Turkey ‘agree’ to run five airports in Afghanistan


Technical teams from Doha and Ankara were dispatched to Kabul to repair the capital’s airport following the foreign troop withdrawal in late August.

Qatari and Turkish companies signed a memorandum of understanding [MoU] to run five airports in Afghanistan, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday.

This comes as officials from Qatar and Turkey are scheduled to travel to Afghanistan to meet the interim Taliban-led administration on Wednesday and discuss a formal deal to operate Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport.

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

The Turkish foreign minister noted Kabul airport and four others are included in the latest agreement.

“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,” added Cavusoglu.

Muslim nations pledge fund to prevent Afghanistan economic collapse

Qatari and Turkish technical teams were sent to repair damages at Hamid Karzai International Airport upon the Taliban’s request and in coordination with the international community following the complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan on 31 August.

The teams were able to get the airport up and running within a short period of time, enabling the resumption of civilian flights as well as dozens of evacuation trips—the vast majority of which were operated by Doha’s national carrier, Qatar Airways.

The first passenger flight to depart Kabul landed in Qatar on 9 September, carrying 113 Afghans and foreigners. Since then, thousands of Afghans and foreigners have been evacuated on numerous flights.

In November, Reuters reported that the UAE held talks with the Taliban-run Afghan administration with the aim of convincing Kabul’s new rulers of allowing Abu Dhabi to run the Hamid Karzai International Airport. This has been attributed to the UAE’s keenness to assert regional influence.

There have been no updates on the aforementioned discussions since then.

Over the last few months, regional heavyweight mediator Qatar has played a pivotal role as events unfolded in Afghanistan, carrying out the largest airlift of people in history. The Gulf state evacuated at least 70,000 Afghans and foreigners.

While Qatar has mediated between all Afghan parties as well as the Taliban and the US in recent years, diplomatic efforts have been ramped up since the collapse of the former Afghan government in recent months.

The Gulf state has since agreed to relocate embassies belonging to several Western powers from Kabul to Doha to allow them to carry out operations outside the country.

European countries and the US have held various meetings with the Taliban-led interim Afghan government in Doha as the Gulf state has continued to call on the global community to engage with the acting administration.

Meanwhile, Qatar has continued to facilitate evacuations and provide Afghanistan with humanitarian assistance.

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