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

The United Arab Emirates has held talks with the Taliban to run Kabul airport, going up in opposition to Gulf rival Qatar in a diplomatic tussle for affect with Afghanistan’s new rulers, based on 4 sources with information of the matter.

UAE officers have held a collection of discussions with the group in current weeks to debate working the airport that serves as landlocked Afghanistan’s most important air hyperlink to the world, the overseas diplomats based mostly within the Gulf area advised Reuters.

The talks show how nations are looking for to say their affect in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan even because the hardline Islamist group largely stays a global pariah and its authorities not formally recognised by any nation.

The Emiratis are eager to counter diplomatic clout loved there by Qatar, based on the sources who declined to be title as a result of sensitivity of the matter.

The Qataris have been serving to run the Hamid Karzai Worldwide Airport together with Turkey after enjoying a significant position in evacuation efforts following the chaotic U.S. withdrawal in August, and have stated they’re prepared to take over the operations.

But the Taliban has not but formalised an association with Qatar, the 4 diplomats stated.

A senior Emirati overseas ministry official stated the UAE, which beforehand ran Kabul airport through the U.S.-backed Afghan republic, “stays dedicated to persevering with to help in working” it to make sure humanitarian entry and secure passage.

Abu Dhabi additionally aided current evacuation efforts.

The Taliban and Qatari authorities didn’t reply to requests for remark.

Two of the diplomats stated the Taliban has additionally sought monetary help from the UAE, although they added it was not clear if this was associated to the airport discussions.

The Emirati overseas ministry official, Salem Al Zaabi, director of worldwide safety cooperation, didn’t reply to a query on whether or not the UAE was contemplating offering monetary assist to the Taliban.

AIRPORT INTELLIGENCE

One key situation that is nonetheless to be resolved between the Taliban and potential airport operators is who would supply safety on the web site, the 4 diplomats stated. The Taliban say they don’t need overseas forces within the nation following their return to energy after 20 years of warfare.

Nonetheless, Qatari particular forces are presently offering safety inside the airport’s perimeter, the diplomats added, whereas Taliban particular forces had been patrolling areas exterior.

Thus far nations have been reluctant to formally recognise the Taliban’s authorities, accusing the group of backtracking on pledges to uphold the rights of ladies and minorities.

But Qatari officers have urged larger worldwide engagement with the Taliban to forestall impoverished Afghanistan from falling right into a humanitarian disaster. Gulf states have additionally voiced concern https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/gulf-arabs-jittery-about-taliban-takeover-may-seek-pragmatic-ties-2021-08-20 that the U.S. withdrawal would enable al Qaeda to regain a foothold in Afghanistan.

Whereas there may be little industrial profit for any operator, the airport would supply a much-needed supply of intelligence on actions in and in a foreign country, based on the 4 diplomats, who stated that because the withdrawal many nations have lacked real-time info.

REGIONAL RIVALRIES

Qatar and the UAE have had strained relations for years as they competed for regional affect.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia and their allies boycotted Qatar for over three years, reducing off political, commerce and transport ties, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism – a cost that it denies. The dispute was resolved in January this yr.

Qatar has lengthy been the gateway to the Taliban, with Doha internet hosting the group’s political workplace since 2013 and negotiations with the U.S. in early 2020 that led to the withdrawal.

Final week, Qatari officers strengthened their place by signing an accord https://www.reuters.com/world/exclusive-qatar-act-us-diplomatic-representative-afghanistan-official-2021-11-12 to signify American diplomatic pursuits in Afghanistan.

The UAE has maintained ties with the Taliban too, based on two of the diplomats. They stated the nation had been residence to some members of the group in recent times, together with Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, who they added lived within the Sharjah emirate along with his household from at the least 2013. Stanikzai is now deputy overseas minister within the Taliban administration.

Al Zaabi didn’t reply to questions on the UAE’s relationship with Stanikzai. The Taliban didn’t instantly reply to queries on Stanikzai residing within the UAE.

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

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