BY DILARA ASLAN
ANKARA DEC 27, 2021 – 1:45 PM GMT+3In this file photo taken on August 30, 2021, an US Air Force aircraft takes off from the airport in Kabul. (AFP Photo)
Turkey, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) may operate Afghanistan’s Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport trilaterally, Abu Dhabi told Ankara, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Monday.
Responding to Daily Sabah’s question during a press conference to evaluate the year 2021, Çavuşoğlu said: “Before the Taliban took over power, we were leading Kabul airport’s military wing within the scope of NATO. The civilian part was led by a UAE company.”
He indicated that the company operated there for around one and a half years.
“The Taliban administration had stated it would receive proposals from different countries.”
“We made an agreement with Qatar,” he highlighted, referring to Ankara and Doha’s efforts to operate the airport. Recently, a technical delegation from Turkey traveled to Doha to coordinate with the Qatari side.
“Our friends in Doha continued to discuss what can be done if the joint company (of Qatar and Turkey) take on the operation of the airport.”
However, he stressed that Qatar and Turkey have not reached an agreement with the Taliban yet.
“It is normal that different countries make offers during that process.”
The UAE’s de facto ruler, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MBZ), paid an official visit to Ankara last month.
Çavuşoğlu said the issue was briefly discussed on the sidelines of the meeting.
“They (UAE) said we may operate the airport trilaterally.”
Neither side made a concrete offer to the other on the joint operation yet, he added, indicating that discussions similar to those with Doha did not take place between the two countries.
Çavuşoğlu said Monday that Turkey may jointly operate five airports in Afghanistan with Qatar after talks in Doha and Kabul.
Turkey has been working with Qatar to reopen the airport in the Afghan capital for international travel. However, repairs are needed before commercial flights can resume.
After the Taliban seized control of the country, Turkey offered technical and security assistance to operationalize Kabul’s airport. Keeping the airport open after foreign forces handed over control is vital to keeping Afghanistan connected with the world and maintaining an uninterrupted supply of aid for distribution.
The Turkish government has taken a pragmatic approach to the recent events in Afghanistan. Underlining that new realities have emerged in Afghanistan, Ankara said it would move forward accordingly while keeping communication with all relevant leaders open.
NATO member Turkey maintained its embassy in Afghanistan after Western countries withdrew following the Taliban takeover and has urged those countries to step up engagement. At the same time, it said it will only work fully with the Taliban if they form a more inclusive administration.