Turkey holds first talks with Taliban after deadly Afghanistan blasts

President Erdogan says a decision about Kabul airport has yet to be made

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey, February 10, 2021. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/PPO/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday said Turkey held its first talks with the Taliban in Kabul and that Ankara was still assessing the Islamist group's offer to run the airport in the Afghan capital.

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

“We have held our first talks with the Taliban, which lasted three and a half hours,” Mr Erdogan said. “If necessary, we will have the opportunity to hold such talks again.”

Responding to domestic 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,” Mr Erdogan said.

Turkey had planned to help secure and run Kabul's strategic airport but, on Wednesday, it started pulling troops out of Afghanistan – an apparent sign from Ankara that it had abandoned this goal.

Mr Erdogan said the Taliban now wanted to oversee security at the airport, while offering Ankara the option of running its logistics.

But, he said, the suicide bombs that killed at least 85 people, including 13 US troops, outside the airport during in the last days of the evacuation effort on Thursday showed the importance of knowing the details of how the airport will be secured.

“They said: 'We will ensure the security, you operate [the airport]'. We have not made any decision on this issue yet,” Mr Erdogan said.

“We will make a decision once calm prevails.”

Updated: August 27th 2021, 9:49 AM
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