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Turkey says received request from Taliban to operate Kabul airport

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (photo by Reuters)

Turkey says it has received a request from the Taliban in Afghanistan to operate the international airport in Kabul, shortly after Ankara reversed a decision to provide security for the airfield at the behest of the United States due to the deteriorating security situation in the country.

Speaking at a press conference in Istanbul on Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, “The Taliban have made a request regarding the operation of the Kabul airport. They say, ‘We’ll ensure security and you can operate it.’ But we have not made a decision yet.”

On Thursday, two terrorist attacks just outside the airport perimeter killed at least 90 Afghan civilians and 12 US soldiers, who were processing the evacuation of American nationals and allies from Afghanistan. The Takfiri Daesh terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Erdogan condemned the deadly attacks and stressed that such assaults by Daesh show the grave threat the terror group poses to both the region and the world. He said calm should be restored in Kabul before Turkey makes a decision about the airport as there is a risk of getting “sucked into” a predicament.

He said the Turkish Embassy in Afghanistan had been turned into a military zone, where a first meeting with the Taliban had been held for over three hours. Erdogan reiterated that Ankara would continue holding talks with the Taliban and would evaluate ties once a new government is established.

Earlier, the US and Turkey had agreed to a plan under which the Turkish military would be responsible for providing security at the airport in Kabul, ensuring that the US and its allies could maintain a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of the foreign forces. However, Ankara reversed its decision on Thursday, citing the deteriorating security situation in the country and stressing that it would only help if the Taliban agreed to a Turkish security presence.

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