Taliban officials in Afghanistan confirmed Friday that they had discussed plans with a joint delegation from Turkey and Qatar for firms from the two countries to run airports in Kabul and other Afghan cities.
The talks came as the international community looks for ways to scale up delivery of urgently needed humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, where millions of people are facing extreme hunger.
Taliban transport ministry spokesman Imamuddin Ahmadi told VOA a preliminary round of discussions with a joint team of Turkish and Qatari companies was held Thursday. He said further meetings were planned for early next week, but no deal had been reached so far.
Before traveling to Kabul this week, Turkish and Qatari companies signed a memorandum of understanding to operate the city’s airport “on the basis of equal partnership,” Turkish media reported Thursday.
Ahmadi said other airports under discussions with the Turkey-Qatar delegation were in the Afghan provinces of Balkh, Herat, Kandahar and Khost.
Ankara agreed to provide security for the Kabul airport after the Taliban took over the country in mid-August following the abrupt U.S.-led foreign troop withdrawal from the country later that month.
Turkey helped the U.S.-backed deposed Afghan government manage and protect the airport for six years until the final international troops left the country August 31.
The abrupt, chaotic U.S. troop exit from the country damaged parts of the Kabul airport. Qatar helped the Taliban repair and make the facility operational again.
The United States and its allies evacuated 124,000 foreign nationals and at-risk Afghans after the Taliban seized control of the capital. But thousands more people want to leave the country, mostly those who worked closely with the former government and Western militaries, fearing Taliban reprisals.
The departure of the foreign forces and financial sanctions on the Taliban have plunged Afghanistan into economic turmoil and worsened the humanitarian crisis stemming from years of war, drought and high levels of poverty.
The U.N. estimates more than half of the country’s nearly 40 million people face starvation, with 1 million children at risk of dying of “severe acute malnutrition.”
Kabul’s airport is currently the main route for flying humanitarian assistance into Afghanistan and for people who want to leave the country.