Erdogan says Turkey still willing to protect Kabul airport

ISTANBUL: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan  said Turkey was still prepared to protect Kabul airport following the Taliban takeover, and Ankara was talking with all concerned parties.

“We aimed at ensuring the security of the airport and contributing to the security of this country after the withdrawal of American (troops). We still maintain this intention,” Erdogan said in a televised interview.

Ankara has negotiated with US defence officials since offering to help secure and run Kabul airport, which is key to allowing countries to retain a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan after the US troop withdrawal.

But the swift Taliban takeover has left the Turkish plan in limbo.

“We are now doing our planning according to the new realities that emerged on the ground and holding our negotiations accordingly,” said Erdogan.

American officials say they continue to talk to Ankara about security arrangements for the airport and have expressed gratitude for the role of Turkey in evacuating civilians from Kabul.

“Turkey’s military presence in Afghanistan will give the new administration an upper hand in the international arena and facilitate its job,” Erdogan said.

He said Turkey sought an agreement with the Afghan authorities. “We can discuss different options,” he said.

Whoever holds power, Erdogan added, Turkey will stand by Afghanistan, repeating that he was ready to meet the Taliban leaders.

“We welcome restrained and moderate statements made by the Taliban,” he added.

Erdogan said he would speak with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin in the coming days.

Turkey has so far evacuated 552 Turkish citizens from Kabul.