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Qatar won’t take ‘responsibility’ for running Kabul airport without Taliban agreement

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)
A Taliban unit stands guard as passengers on board a Qatar Airways aircraft disembark at the airport in Kabul on September 14, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Qatar’s foreign minister says the Persian Gulf state would not take responsibility for Kabul’s airport, a vital lifeline with the outside world as well as Afghanistan’s mountainous territory, without “clear” agreements with the new Taliban rulers about the airport’s operations.

Speaking at a press briefing on Tuesday,  Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said the status of the Kabul airport operations was still being negotiated with all parties involved, including the Taliban.

“We need to make sure that everything is addressed very clearly otherwise... we are not able to take any responsibility of the airport (if) all these things are not addressed,” the top Qatari diplomat said.

“Right now the status is still (under) negotiation.”

The foreign minister held talks with senior officials of Afghanistan’s new Taliban-led government on Sunday.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has said the group was in talks with Qatar and Turkey about the future of the airport.

The Taliban have reportedly asked Turkey to handle the logistics at the airport while the group maintains security there. Ankara has said it is assessing the offer.

Last week, Qatari sources said Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai International Airport was 90% ready for operation after a team of Qatari engineers repaired parts of the air traffic control system damaged in the wake of a chaotic US evacuation.

Since the US pullout, Qatar Airways planes have made several trips to Kabul, flying in aid and Doha's representatives.

The Kabul airport had been closed since the end of the massive airlift of American citizens and other Western nationals.

The United States fully withdrew its forces before the Taliban's August 31 deadline to officially end 20 years of war and occupation.

Doha hosts the Taliban's political office and has considerable influence over the Taliban and played a pivotal role in the evacuation of foreigners.

The government of Afghanistan rapidly collapsed on August 15 with President Ashraf Ghani fleeing the country in the face of lightning advances of the Taliban.

The Taliban announced the formation of a caretaker government three weeks after their takeover.

The United Nations has criticized the Taliban’s interim administration, which is dominated by veteran loyalists, most of them ethnic Pashtuns.

Presenting an oral update on the situation in Afghanistan to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, the UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said she was “dismayed by the lack of inclusivity of the so-called caretaker cabinet, which includes no women and few non-Pashtuns.”

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