UAE to run Kabul airport in deal with Taliban, says report

A screen grab of Afghan men as they stand near a flight at an aiport in Kabul, Afghanistan.

The Taliban and the United Arab Emirates have decided to strike a deal for the Gulf nation to run Kabul airport and several others in Afghanistan that could be announced within weeks, Reuters reported quoting sources familiar with the negotiations.

Earlier in May this year, Taliban’s transportation and civil aviation minister said that Taliban has signed an agreement with the United Arab Emirates on operating airports in Afghanistan after months of talks with the UAE, Turkey and Qatar.

The deal would also hand Abu Dhabi a win in its diplomatic tussle with Qatar for influence with Afghanistan’s new rulers, the news agency report said.

The Taliban, have courted regional powers, including Qatar and Turkey, to operate Kabul airport, landlocked Afghanistan’s main air link with the world, and others.

But after months of back-and-forth talks, and at one point raising the possibility of a joint UAE-Turkey-Qatar deal, the Taliban is set to hand the operations in their entirety to the UAE, who had previously run Afghan airports, the report said quoting the source further.

The report quoting the source said under the deal with the UAE, Afghans will be employed at the airports, including in security roles, a criteria that was crucial to the Taliban who staunchly oppose the presence of foreign forces.

An Emirati state-linked contractor would also provide security services, while talks continue on the management of Afghanistain’s airspace, they said.

Emirati state-linked GAAC, which was involved in running security and ground handling services at Afghan airports before the Taliban takeover, was awarded the ground handling contract in May soon after Taliban officials visited Abu Dhabi.

Qatar and Turkey’s joint negotiations with the Taliban broke down around the same time, Reuters quoted sources as saying.

A Taliban transport ministry spokesman confirmed an aviation security contract had already been signed with the UAE but said the air traffic contract was not finalised or confirmed yet.


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