UAE holds talks with Taliban to run Kabul airport – foreign diplomats

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According to four sources with knowledge of the matter, the United Arab Emirates is in talks with the Taliban to run the Kabul airport.

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Foreign diplomats based in the Gulf region reported that UAE officials have held several discussions with the group in recent weeks to discuss the operation of the airport, which serves as Afghanistan’s main air link to the world. Is. Reuters,

The talks demonstrate how countries are trying to assert their influence in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, even as the radical Islamist group remains largely an international pariah and its government is not formally established by any country. Not recognized by

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The emirate is eager to counter Qatar’s diplomatic clout, according to sources who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Qataris are helping run Hamid Karzai International Airport with Turkey after playing a major role in evacuation efforts following a chaotic US withdrawal in August, and have said they are willing to handle operations.

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Four diplomats said the Taliban had not yet formalized a deal with Qatar.

A senior Emirati foreign ministry official said the United Arab Emirates, which previously operated Kabul airport during the US-backed Afghan Republic, is “committed to continuing to assist it in operations” to ensure humanitarian access and safe passage.

Abu Dhabi also assisted in recent evacuation efforts.

Taliban and Qatari officials did not respond to requests for comment.

Two diplomats said the Taliban had also sought financial assistance from the UAE, although they said it was unclear whether this was related to the airport discussions.

Emirati foreign ministry official, Salem Al Zaabi, director of international security cooperation, did not respond to questions about whether the UAE was considering providing financial aid to the Taliban.

The four diplomats said a key issue that has yet to be resolved between the Taliban and potential airport operators is who will provide security at the site. The Taliban say they do not want foreign forces in the country after returning to power after two decades of war.

Nevertheless, Qatari special forces are currently providing security within the perimeter of the airport, while Taliban special forces were patrolling outside areas, diplomats said.

So far countries have been reluctant to formally recognize the Taliban’s government, accusing the group of backtracking on a pledge to uphold the rights of women and minorities.

Yet Qatari officials have urged greater international engagement with the Taliban to prevent poor Afghanistan from falling into a humanitarian crisis. Gulf countries have also expressed concern that the US withdrawal would enable Al Qaeda to gain a foothold in Afghanistan.

While there is little commercial benefit to either operator, the airport will provide an essential source of intelligence on activities in and out of the country, according to four diplomats, who said that since the withdrawal, many countries have been able to access real-time information. There is a lack. ,

Relations between Qatar and the UAE have been strained over the years as they competed for regional influence.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia and their allies have boycotted Qatar for more than three years, cutting political, trade and transport ties, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism – a charge it denies. The dispute was resolved in January this year.

Qatar has long been a gateway to the Taliban, with Doha hosting the group’s political office since 2013 and talks with the US in early 2020 that led to a withdrawal.

Last week, Qatari officials strengthened their position by signing a deal to represent US diplomatic interests in Afghanistan.

According to two diplomats, the United Arab Emirates has maintained ties with the Taliban as well. He said the country has been home to some members of the group in recent years, including Sher Mohamed Abbas Stanikzai, whom he added, who has lived in the emirate of Sharjah with his family since at least 2013. Stanikzai is now the deputy foreign minister in the Taliban administration.

Al Zaabi did not respond to questions on the UAE’s relationship with Stanikzai. The Taliban did not immediately respond to questions from Stanikzai, who lives in the UAE.

The Taliban said this month that the UAE had reopened its embassy in Kabul. The UAE has not commented.

Reuters

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Credit: www.independent.co.uk /

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