Global NewsAfghan Airports: Taliban to Sign Agreement with UAE

Afghan Airports: Taliban to Sign Agreement with UAE

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The Taliban will sign an agreement with the UAE on operating airports in Afghanistan, the group’s acting deputy prime minister said on Tuesday, after months of talks with the UAE, Turkey, and Qatar on the issue.

Members of a Taliban delegation, led by chief negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (C, front), leave after peace talks with Afghan senior politicians in Moscow, Russia May 30, 2019. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

The movement’s deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar made the announcement in a Tweet and later told reporters in Kabul that his administration was renewing an airport ground handling agreement with the UAE.

It was not immediately clear whether the agreement went beyond existing arrangements or if it included airport security, a sensitive issue for the Taliban who fought for decades against US-led NATO troops and say they do not want the return of international forces.

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The UAE’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A source briefed on the negotiations told Reuters that a sticking point in the negotiations with Qatar has been Doha’s insistence that Qatari security personnel be present at the airport.

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Qatar and Turkey had already sent temporary technical teams to help airport operations and security after the Taliban took over in August last year as foreign forces withdrew.

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The airport talks have demonstrated how countries are seeking to assert their influence in Afghanistan even as the hardline group largely remains an international pariah and its government is not formally recognised by any country.

The Emiratis are keen to counter diplomatic clout enjoyed in Afghanistan by Qatar, sources told Reuters last year as talks began.

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