Turkey lobbies Taliban in bid to operate five Afghan airports

Special Turkey lobbies Taliban in bid to operate five Afghan airports
A C-17 Globemaster takes off as Taliban fighters secure the outer perimeter of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 29, 2021. (Getty Images)
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Updated 21 December 2021

Turkey lobbies Taliban in bid to operate five Afghan airports

Turkey lobbies Taliban in bid to operate five Afghan airports
  • Deal could see Ankara gain further influence in regional political, security concerns 
  • Proposal includes joint Turkish-Qatari involvement 

ANKARA: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced on Monday that a Turkish and a Qatari company would jointly put forward a proposal to the Taliban to run five airports in Afghanistan for their approval “if conditions are favorable.”

A busy week awaits the technical delegations as one group of experts is expected to travel to Doha first, before heading to Afghanistan to discuss details for operating Kabul airport — a key point to channel humanitarian aid to Afghan civilians — and reopening it for international travel.

Experts underline that Turkish and Qatari involvement in the running of the airports will help the Taliban to maintain their links with international actors and evade international isolation, while Ankara will also use its Afghanistan card to repair ties with Washington and to have a foothold in regional geopolitics.

In the meantime, Turkish and Qatari delegations, which already signed a joint agreement on operating the airports in Afghanistan, will make joint proposals to the Taliban, which will be discussed on Wednesday.

Turkey was initially offering to operate Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul with technical and security assistance, but questions remain unanswered about why the initial plan changed and the benefits of this proposal for regional security and channeling of humanitarian assistance.

On Sunday, Cavusoglu met with the acting Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi on the sidelines of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation meeting in Islamabad to discuss the airport issue.

“As the Taliban succeeded in taking over Afghanistan militarily, and the Doha peace process became dead, now the Taliban are interested to increase their capability to govern, but they lack legitimacy both internally and internationally,” Zalmai Nishat, a research fellow at the Asia Center at the University of Sussex, told Arab News.

“The Taliban may have requested the operationalization of these airports in the western, northern, southern and central parts of Afghanistan. The lack of capacity in these airports is a key problem and Turkey can fulfill it with its much-needed technical expertise,” he added.

However, Nishat underlined that during the new round of negotiations with the Taliban, Turkey should devise its own Afghanistan policy and must use its stature and prestige to ensure democratic representation of all ethnic, sectarian communities and political factions of Afghanistan.

With its non-combatant role in the country over the years, Turkey established connections with diverse segments of Afghan society, including the Taliban.

The Turkish government insists on including some Turkic figures from minority groups — like Turkmen and Uzbeks — as well as women in Afghanistan’s new Cabinet.

“By helping run the airports, Ankara is eyeing getting an influential foothold in Afghanistan, to help achieve its broader goals in the region,” Galip Dalay, a fellow at the German Institute for Security and Policy Affairs, told Arab News.

“All regional powers already had their roles in Afghanistan and establishing a meaningful influence in the operationalization of the airports is the only area that Turkey can currently occupy,” he added.

However, for Dalay, Ankara is likely to bring to the negotiation table the “security” role that it wants to assume in the airports of Afghanistan.

“Qatar is willing to share responsibilities with Turkey on this issue because it doesn’t have enough skills to handle the security of the airports,” he said.

Dalay also noted that the Taliban and Ankara would find a middle ground for the security role at the airports without being restricted with the technical or civilian roles.

“The Taliban are currently in economic and political isolation at the international sphere and they will be open to any offers to break it. At that point, a Turkish private contractor can assume the security role at the airport, and thereby Turkey will gain leverage in its relations vis-à-vis the Biden administration and the EU with this new responsibility as it will both open humanitarian aid channels to the country and help manage the migration flows to Europe,” he said.

On Monday, Cavusoglu said a Turkish and a Qatari company had signed a memorandum of understanding for running five airports in Afghanistan, including Hamid Karzai, but did not name the other four.

Turkey should face international court over Yazidi genocide, UK report says

Turkey should face international court over Yazidi genocide, UK report says
Updated 06 July 2022

Turkey should face international court over Yazidi genocide, UK report says

Turkey should face international court over Yazidi genocide, UK report says
  • The report, compiled by prominent human rights lawyers, highlight states' binding responsibility to prevent genocide on their territories

LONDON: British human rights lawyer Helena Kennedy has said that Turkey should face charges before the International Court of Justice for being complicit in acts of genocide against the Yazidi people.

Kennedy also endorsed an investigation against Syria and Iraq for failing to prevent the killings.

The groundbreaking report, compiled by a group of prominent human rights lawyers, seeks to highlight states' binding responsibility to prevent genocide on their territories, even if perpetrated by a third party such as extremist organizations.

The lawyers, known as the Yazidi Justice Committee (YJC), asserted that states are held accountable under the Genocide Convention to prevent genocide.

Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, chair of the YJC, described the genocide of the Yazidi people as “madness heaped on evil”.

“Mechanisms in place could have saved the Yazidis from what is now part of their past, and part of their past partial destruction,” he said.

From 2013, a genocide against the Yazidis, a religious minority in Iraq and Syria, has been attempted. Following a three-year investigation into the conduct of 13 countries, the 278-page report concluded that three of them failed in their duty to take reasonable steps to prevent genocide.

Regarding Turkey, the YJC accused its leaders of being complicit in the massacres, claiming that the country failed to police its borders to prevent the free flow of extremist fighters, including a significant number of Turkish nationals. Turkish officials have dismissed the criticisms as unfounded.

The YJC also claimed that from April 2014, Turkish officials turned a blind eye to the sale, transfer and enslavement of Yazidi women and children,and assisted in training fighters affiliated with extremist organizations to fight its Kurdish enemies in Syria, thus strengthening the perpetrators of the genocide.

“Turkish officials knew and/or were willfully blind to evidence that these individuals would use this training to commit prohibited acts against the Yazidis,” the report said.

Although the report acknowledged that Iraq had called on the UN to recognize the atrocities committed in 2014, it accused the Iraqi government of failing to coordinate with Kurdish authorities or take steps to evacuate the Yazidis to safety.

According to the report, the Syrian government also failed to prevent the transfer and detention of enslaved Yazidis on its territory.

The Turkish ambassador to the UK, Ümit Yalçın, called the criticisms baseless and unfair.

“Turkey starting from the early years of the conflict in Syria played a key role in the protection of Syrian civilians and minorities, including Yazidis, in the region against the attacks and violations of terrorist groups,” Yalçın said.

He also added: “Turkey not only opened its doors and became a safe haven for millions of Syrians and Yazidis but also provided protection for the people of the region through three counter terrorism operations in Syria. Today Yazidis live peacefully in areas that are under the control of the legitimate Syrian opposition in north-western Syria.

“Moreover, last year many Yazidi families that took refugee in north-western Syria tried to return to their homes in Syria’s north-east but [were] prevented from doing so by PKK/YPG [the initials of the Kurdish groups in Turkey and Syria].”

“An ocean of impunity exists in relation to the Yazidi genocide”, Kennedy said, noting that extremist groups as a non-state actors cannot be prosecuted under international law.

Kennedy added that meanwhile, states had “failed to in their duty to address their responsibilities to prevent the genocide for a variety of inhumane reasons”. She wrote that if they are not held accountable, “then the promise of ‘never again’ rings hollow”.

Egyptian, US forces carry out joint training exercise

Egyptian, US forces carry out joint training exercise
Updated 06 July 2022

Egyptian, US forces carry out joint training exercise

Egyptian, US forces carry out joint training exercise
  • The exercise involved a series of lectures on unifying combat concepts

CAIRO: The air forces of the US and Egypt have carried out a joint training exercise at a base in the North African country, strengthening military cooperation between the two countries.
An Egyptian military spokesman announced that the exercise involved a series of lectures on unifying combat concepts and exchanging training experiences, and saw a number of multitask combat aircraft deployed by the US Air Force and Egyptian Air Force for training flights on operational missions and mid-air refueling in the air both during the day and at night.
The training flights demonstrated the extent to which the Egyptian Air Force has reached a high level of professionalism that qualifies its fighter pilots to carry out all tasks entrusted to them.
The exercise comes in light of the growing partnership and military cooperation between Cairo and Washington.

Yemen government slams new ‘one-sided’ UN proposal on Taiz

Yemen government slams new ‘one-sided’ UN proposal on Taiz
Updated 06 July 2022

Yemen government slams new ‘one-sided’ UN proposal on Taiz

Yemen government slams new ‘one-sided’ UN proposal on Taiz
  • The Yemeni government said it was not consulted beforehand on the proposal
  • Grundberg has intensely engaged with both parties to push for the full implementation of the truce’s elements

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: Hans Grundberg, the UN special envoy for Yemen, has presented a new proposal on opening roads in the besieged city of Taiz in an attempt to break the deadlock after the Iran-backed Houthis rejected his first proposal, the Yemeni government said.
The Yemeni government said it was not consulted beforehand on the proposal, which it considers “biased” toward the Houthis.
In his first proposal, Grundberg suggested opening a main road and several small secondary roads leading into and out of Taiz in a bid to end the impasse during discussions between the Yemeni government and the Houthis in the Jordanian capital of Amman.
The Yemeni government agreed to the proposal while the Houthis rejected it and insisted on opening old, unpaved and narrow roads.
Abdul Kareem Shaiban, head of the government’s delegation at the talks in Amman, said the envoy’s new proposal has taken into consideration Houthi demands by suggesting opening only small roads that do not alleviate the suffering of tens of thousands of people who live under the Houthi siege.
“He should have sat with us before announcing the proposal that has removed the demand for opening the main road known as Softeel, which connects Taiz with Aden and Sanaa,” he told Arab News by telephone. “We are back where we started.”
Shaiban said the Yemeni government delegation was not invited to Amman to discuss the new proposal, slamming the UN envoy for abandoning his first proposal and approving the Houthi demands.
Responding to the government’s criticism, the office of the UN Yemen envoy told Arab News that Grundberg has intensely engaged with both parties to push for the full implementation of the truce’s elements, including opening roads in Taiz, stating that new proposals or ideas on related issues are discussed with both sides.
“Draft proposals and options to open roads in Taiz and other governorates have been presented and discussed with both parties. The UN underlines the need to demonstrate the political will to reach an agreement soonest to make tangible progress,” the office said.
Under the UN-brokered deal that came into effect on April 2, the Yemeni government allowed the resumption of commercial flights from the Houthi-held airport in Sanaa, facilitated the arrival of fuel ships to the Hodeidah seaport, stopped hostilities on all fronts and allowed travelers with Houthi-issued passports to fly on Yemenia Airways.
While the Houthis have stopped fighting, mainly their deadly offensive on the central city of Marib, they have refused to lift their siege on Taiz, a key element of the truce.
In a letter sent to the UN Yemen envoy on Tuesday, Shaiban suggested opening five roads that link the city with other provinces, including two roads that were included in the envoy’s first proposal.
“We assure that these roads are safe, achieve the humanitarian aspect and are convenient to the people,” he said.
The UN Yemen envoy said that military delegates from the Yemeni government and the Houthis that met in Amman this week pledged again to respect the truce by stopping hostilities and military activities during Eid celebrations. Both sides also agreed to jointly work on upholding the truce, building trust and easing the suffering of the people in Yemen.
“The parties agreed to continue discussions focused on preventing or reducing as much as possible movements of military personnel and equipment and means of exercising effective operational control to ensure that all forces understand and comply with their responsibilities in the truce,” Grundberg said in a statement.

UK-Egypt Association Council inaugurated in London

UK-Egypt Association Council inaugurated in London
The two sides issued a joint statement following the launch. (Shutterstock)
Updated 06 July 2022

UK-Egypt Association Council inaugurated in London

UK-Egypt Association Council inaugurated in London
  • Foreign ministers discuss areas of cooperation, including investment and addressing climate change

CAIRO: Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry, and the UK’s minister of foreign and commonwealth affairs and development, Liz Truss, inaugurated the UK-Egypt Association Council in London.

The two sides issued a joint statement following the launch, stressing it created a new platform to promote the ambitions expressed in the agreement between the UK and Egypt, signed in December 2020.

The statement revealed that the two ministers held talks on developing the strategic partnership between their countries, and welcomed a number of commercial successes between them, including the project to manufacture monorail linear trains in the English city of Derby with the support of the British Export Finance Corp.

This comes in addition to the sale of two marine supply units that belonged to the Royal Navy to Egypt, including contracts for renewal and development.

The statement added that the cooperation included the opening of a new solar energy field with a capacity of 66 megawatts by Globeleq, with an investment of $80 million; the launch of commercial operations by Lekela Wind Energy, with an investment of $325 million; and the approval of an investment of $100 million by British International Investment to acquire Alpha Medical Group.

The two ministers also discussed prospects for enhancing economic cooperation between the UK and Egypt, and agreed to work intensively to develop bilateral trade and investment, including addressing any obstacles to trade, and working to improve market access in the agricultural, healthcare, energy and financial sectors through the establishment of a trade subcommittee. 

The Egyptian and UK governments also affirmed their commitment to enhancing bilateral cooperation and investments in healthcare and education, and welcomed the deepening of their technical cooperation, which will support joint work to overcome barriers to market access in priority sectors.

Future cooperation includes the signing of a declaration of intent between the Egyptian Electric Utility and Consumer Protection Regulatory Agency and the British Gas and Electricity Markets Authority, to help reform Egyptian legislation on renewable energy.

The two ministers welcomed the strengthening of cooperation in Africa and the discovery of tripartite cooperation opportunities with African countries in various fields, especially infrastructure.

The UK welcomed Egypt’s preparations to host COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh in November, stressing its desire to build on the Glasgow Climate Charter and previous UN climate change goals. 

Egypt and the UK both stressed the importance of supporting developing peoples in achieving a fair transition towards sustainable development patterns that are environmentally friendly and compatible with efforts to combat climate change, including the transition towards sustainable energy and green hydrogen, in addition to adapting to the effects of climate change, through the sustainable and integrated management of natural resources, enhancing resilience and building technical and technological capacities.

The two ministers also discussed a large number of bilateral, regional and global issues of common interest, including human rights, mentioning their desire to hold meetings of the Association Council regularly to continue strengthening cooperation between London and Cairo.

The UK commended Egypt for its leadership and efforts in the field of renewable energy generation and for providing opportunities for British investors and companies in the energy sector.

Egyptian, Cypriot presidents hold talks

Egyptian, Cypriot presidents hold talks
Updated 06 July 2022

Egyptian, Cypriot presidents hold talks

Egyptian, Cypriot presidents hold talks

CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi received a phone call from his Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades to discuss regional issues of common interest and ways to enhance bilateral relations.

El-Sisi affirmed Egypt’s “pride” in the “distinguished cooperation” with Cyprus, “and the positive development it is witnessing.”

He stressed Egypt’s aspiration to promote various aspects of that cooperation — especially in the security, military, energy and economic levels — in a way that contributes to achieving the interests of the two friendly peoples.

They also discussed ways of coordinating efforts with Egypt as a leading partner of the EU in terms of combating terrorism, extremist ideology and illegal immigration.