Qatar and Turkey working to restore Kabul passenger flights, ministers say

FILE PHOTO: Taliban forces stand guard at the entrance gate of Hamid Karzai International Airport a day after U.S troops withdrawal in Kabul, Afghanistan August 31, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

Qatar and Turkey are working to restore passenger flights at Kabul airport soon but have yet to agree with Afghanistan's new Taliban rulers how to run the airport, their foreign ministers said on Tuesday.

Both countries have technical teams at the airport and Qatar is chartering near daily humanitarian flights following the withdrawal of U.S. troops a week ago, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said.

"We hope in the next few days we can get to a level where the airport is up and running for passengers and for humanitarian aid as well," Sheikh Mohammed told a joint news conference in Doha with U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.

Damage to the airport's runways, towers and terminals, needs to be repaired before civilian flights can resume, Turkey has said.

Because of the damage, pilots flying into and out of the airport are operating in "fly-as-you-see" mode, Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday.

He told Turkish broadcaster NTV that Turkey and Qatar were working to ensure that both humanitarian and commercial flights could operate. "For both of these, the most important criteria is security," he said.

Turkey says it wants to provide security inside the airport to protect any Turkish team deployed there and safeguard operations, but that the Taliban have insisted there can be no foreign forces present.

Cavusoglu suggested the task could be given to a private security company. "In the future, if everything comes back on track in Afghanistan and the security concern is lifted, Afghan forces can do this.

"But right now, nobody is certain. There is no confidence."

Cavusoglu said a "pre-delegation" of 19 Turkish technicians was working at Kabul airport with a Qatari team.

(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ali Kucukgocmen in Ankara, Humeyra Pamuk in Doha, Aziz El YAakoubi and Lisa Barrington in Dubai Editing by Dominic Evans and Mark Potter)


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