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Qatar Cites Efforts to Reopen Airport in Kabul

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Taliban forces stand guard in front of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 2, 2021.

Efforts are underway to reopen the airport in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, Qatar's foreign minister said Thursday, but he cautioned it was unclear when flights would resume.

A group of technicians from Qatar and Turkey flew to Kabul on Wednesday to help reopen the airport, which is a vital link for those still seeking to flee the country or to deliver humanitarian aid. It was the first foreign aircraft to land at the airport since it closed the day before for unspecified reasons.

"We remain hopeful that we will be able to operate it as soon as possible," said Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani.

The foreign minister also emphasized the need for the Taliban to "demonstrate their commitment to provide safe passage and freedom of movement for the people of Afghanistan."

FILE - A commercial airplane is seen at the Hamid Karzai International Airport a day after U.S troops withdrawal in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 31, 2021.
FILE - A commercial airplane is seen at the Hamid Karzai International Airport a day after U.S troops withdrawal in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 31, 2021.

Qatar has close contacts with the Taliban and played a significant role in U.S. efforts to evacuate tens of thousands of people from Afghanistan.

The foreign minister said Qatar is continuing talks with world powers to resume commercial flights at the airport. It remains to be seen whether any commercial airlines would be willing to provide service to Kabul when the airport reopens.

Turkey, which Sheikh Mohammed said he hopes will provide technical assistance, said Thursday it was "evaluating" plans proposed by the Taliban and others to reopen the airport.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said security "inside and outside" the airport remains the most important priority.

Humanitarian aid

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, the U.N. Humanitarian Air Service, operated by the World Food Program, said it has resumed some flights into Mazar-i-Sharif and Kandahar from Islamabad. It said three flights have already made the trip since August 29.

"All efforts are being made to step up operations as soon as possible and increase the number of flown-to destinations in Afghanistan. In addition, a cargo air bridge is being established to transport nonfood items, such as medical and other emergency supplies to where they are needed the most," said U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.

The U.N. World Food Program estimated last month that about one out of every three Afghans is in urgent need of food assistance.

On Thursday, the global humanitarian group Action Against Hunger said in a statement that about 12 million Afghans "are facing a serious food insecurity crisis" and that its most current nutrition surveys, conducted before the crisis, "indicate alarming rates of child malnutrition."

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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