Erdogan: No decision yet on Taliban request for Turkish help at airport

Turkey has held its first talks with the Taliban in Kabul, President Erdogan says, adding that Ankara was waiting on after September 1 to determine its policy on Afghanistan.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a press conference at Ataturk Airport ahead of his Bosnia and Herzegovina flight in Istanbul, Turkey on August 27, 2021. (AA)

Turkey has not made a final decision on a Taliban request for support to run the Kabul airport after foreign forces withdraw over security concerns and uncertainty in Afghanistan.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed the group approached Turkey for help in running the airport, condemning the terror attacks in Kabul at a press conference on Friday, adding talks were still underway.

Turkey’s military began evacuations on Wednesday, a day before a Daesh suicide bomber struck at the gates of Kabul airport and another at the nearby Baron Hotel, killing more than 80 people, including 13 US soldiers.

Erdogan said calm should be restored in Kabul before making a decision on the airport, adding there was a risk of getting “sucked in” to something that would be hard to explain given uncertainty around the possible mission.

“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 because there is always a possibility of death and such things there,” Erdogan said before leaving for a visit to Bosnia.

Daesh showed the threat it poses to both region and world, Erdogan said.

Erdogan’s comments come as US-led forces braced for more attacks by Daesh-Khorasan while racing to complete evacuations before an August 31 deadline set by President Joe Biden.

“In wake of Kabul attack, evacuation of Turkish troops, as well as citizens, is a priority and will be completed as soon as possible,” he said.

When asked about Ankara’s Kabul policy, he said Turkey will act after September 1 as Afghanistan has no governance at the moment and decisions will be taken after a government has been established.

Erdogan confirmed that Turkey held its first talks with the Taliban in Kabul.

The Turkish leader said the talks were held at a military section of the Kabul airport where the Turkish embassy is temporarily stationed.

“We have held our first talks with the Taliban, which lasted 3.5 hours,” Erdogan told reporters. “If necessary, we will have the opportunity to hold such talks again.”

Responding to criticism over Turkey’s engagement with the insurgent group, Erdogan said Ankara had “no luxury” to stand idly by in the volatile region.

“You cannot know what their expectations are or what our expectations are without talking. What’s diplomacy, my friend? This is diplomacy,” Erdogan said.

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