ANKARA, Aug 17 (Reuters) – Turkey is in talks with all parties in Afghanistan, including the Taliban, and views positively the messages the Islamist militants have sent since taking control of the country, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday.
Cavusoglu was speaking a day after Turkish security sources said Ankara had dropped plans to guard and operate Kabul airport following the withdrawal of other NATO forces from Afghanistan because of the chaos which accompanied the Taliban victory.
The sources told Reuters that Turkey, a Muslim country which has one of NATO’s largest military forces, was instead ready to provide technical and security assistance if the Taliban requested it. read more
“We are keeping up dialogue with all sides, including the Taliban,” Cavusoglu told a news conference in Jordan.
“We view positively the messages that the Taliban has given so far, whether to foreigners, to diplomatic individuals or its own people. We hope to see these in action as well.”
Turkey, with some 600 troops in Afghanistan, will also discuss airport security and the transition in Afghanistan with the United States and others, Cavusoglu said.
“(Afghan parties) will negotiate all these issues amongst themselves – who will be in the transition government, what kind of government will there be… We will discuss all of these but the country needs to calm down now,” he said.
TALKS WITH THE TALIBAN
A senior Turkish official said talks with the Taliban, which started before the group’s fighters swept through Afghanistan, were continuing and Turkey could maintain its presence at the airport if the Taliban requested help.
“We don’t know if the Taliban have enough personnel (to run the airport). They may ask us for technical support. Our presence at the airport may continue in that framework,” the official said.
The Taliban had previously warned Turkey against keeping troops in Kabul to guard the airport but the official said they had not asked Turkish forces to leave Afghanistan, hoping positive ties with Muslim nations would help them gain international recognition.
Turkey was meeting “the Taliban’s military officials through Pakistan, and we are in contact with the political wing through Qatar,” the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.
Turkey’s intelligence agency was involved in the contacts, the official said, adding: “The plan to take control of Kabul airport following the US withdrawal was dropped, but there is no approach for us to leave immediately. No such message was received from the Taliban for now.”