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Qatar working with Taliban to reopen Kabul airport

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani and Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab hold a joint news conference in Doha. Source: Reuters.

DOHA: Qatar is working with the Taliban to reopen Kabul’s airport as soon as possible, its foreign minister said on Thursday, urging the hardliners to allow Afghans to leave the country.

The airport, the scene of a frenzied evacuation which ended with the US troop withdrawal on Tuesday, is out of operation with much of its infrastructure destroyed or degraded.

“We are engaging with them (Taliban), engaging also with Turkey if they can provide any technical assistance on that front. Hopefully in the next few days there will be some good news,” said Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani.

“It’s very important… that the Taliban demonstrate their commitment to provide safe passage and freedom of movement for the people of Afghanistan,” he told a news conference in Doha.

Sheikh Mohammed said Qatar was talking with the Taliban and working with Turkey for potential technical support to restart operations at Kabul airport.

A Qatari technical team flew into Kabul on Wednesday to discuss reopening the airport, the first plane to land there since the evacuations. More than 123,000 foreign nationals and Afghans fled the country in the airlift operation, but many more are desperate to depart.

Sheikh Mohammed was speaking during a joint press conference with UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab, who visited housing for refugees evacuated from Afghanistan earlier in the day.

“Our commitment on the part of the United Kingdom to Afghanistan remains. We need to adjust to the new reality,” Raab told reporters, stressing the need to engage with the Taliban.

“Our immediate priority is to secure the safe passage of those remaining British nationals, and also the Afghans who worked for the United Kingdom, and others who may be at the most risk,” Raab said, adding that he would be talking to regional leaders about securing safe passage through third countries.

Raab said he had discussed with Qatari officials ensuring Afghanistan does not harbour terrorism in the future, preventing a humanitarian crisis, preserving regional stability and holding the Taliban to account on their public pledge to set up a more inclusive government.

The Taliban seized control of the Afghan capital Kabul last month, but have yet to name an administration or reveal how they intend to govern. Britain has moved its Afghanistan embassy from Kabul to the Qatari capital Doha.