Airport deal seen vital for Afghans

Airport deal seen vital for Afghans

Synopsis

By Jan Yumul and Xu Weiwei

Airport deal seen vital for Afghans
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Kabul – Management assistance from Turkey and Qatar to keep Kabul’s airport open will help Afghanistan stay connected with the world and stabilise the flow of aid to Afghans enduring a humanitarian crisis, experts said.

The agreement is also expected to boost regional cooperation between Afghanistan and its other neighbours, as the Taliban-the nation’s caretaker government since August last year-seek official recognition and investments in rebuilding the nation following the chaotic withdrawal of US troops last year. The ratification of the agreement has been welcomed across the region.

Farhan Mujahid Chak, an associate professor of political science at Qatar University with a focus on the Gulf, said the arrangement for Qatar and Turkey to jointly manage the Afghan capital’s airport “reflects the mature, shared strategic vision “of both countries. The ratification of the agreement, he said, would give the Taliban’s recent diplomatic push “considerable momentum”. “Having just returned from successful talks in Norway, the Taliban’s continuous appeal for recognition and humanitarian support, especially as they face a food and health crisis, should not be ignored by the international community,” Chak told China Daily. “Moreover, humanitarian aid to the country at this critical juncture should not be politicised.

“Hence, the immediate consequence of the agreement, and its importance, are of monumental significance.” In a statement on Jan 27, Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that its delegation, together with Turkey and the Afghan interim government, concluded a tripartite meeting agreeing on the key issues required to manage and operate the Kabul International Airport, also known as the Hamid Karzai International Airport.

On Feb 2, Tolo News, a television network based in Kabul, reported that the governments of Afghanistan and Qatar had reached an agreement to establish direct flights between Kabul and Doha each week, settling disputes over a months’ long pause in flights.

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Amina Khan, director of the Centre for Afghanistan, Middle East and Africa at the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad, said the airport deal is not just about looking after the security of the airport as it involves a security framework for the airport mission in itself.

However, she said there are questions over other aspects of the agreement, such as financing.

“In one way (the deal) is good because the Taliban obviously do not have the expertise nor the money to deal with or look after the airport,” Khan told China Daily.

Khan noted that the US, the United Kingdom, and several other European countries have shifted their embassies to Qatar where they have been engaging with the Taliban through their missions there. “In fact, (with Qatar and Turkey having taken this role), it also shows that there is a willingness from the international community to engage with Taliban through Qatar,” she said.

Afghanistan’s humanitarian situation has deteriorated drastically since August last year when international aid came to a sudden halt after the Taliban takeover following 20 years of Western occupation.

In January, the United Nations and its partners launched a funding appeal of more than $5 billion for Afghanistan, in the hope of averting a collapse in basic services.

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Some 22 million Afghans need assistance inside the country, with 5.7 million more outside the country requiring help.

Mehmet Rakipoglu, a Gulf and Middle East expert and researcher at Sakarya University Middle East Institute, said that opening the Kabul airport does not solve the structural problems that Afghanistan has been suffering from.

The invasion of the US damaged the country’s infrastructure. The US altered not only the balance of power in the country but also tried to construct a government that is pro-Western and responsible for the catastrophe, Rakipoglu told China Daily.

Courtesy: China Daily and Xinhua.

 

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