The Pulse | Diplomacy | South Asia

Afghan Taliban Delegation in Turkey for High-level Talks

The meeting with Turkish officials comes on the heels of talks between the Taliban, the United States, and European countries in Qatar earlier in the week.

Afghan Taliban Delegation in Turkey for High-level Talks

The Taliban delegation led by Amir Khan Muttaqi, the acting foreign minister, front, at Esenboga Airport, arrives in Ankara, Turkey, Thursday, October 14, 2021.

Credit: AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici

Turkey’s foreign minister on Thursday met with a high-level delegation of Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers, officials said, the first such talks since the Taliban takeover of the country in August as U.S. forces pulled out after two decades of war. 

The meeting in Ankara between Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Amir Khan Muttaqi, the Taliban-appointed foreign minister, comes after Taliban leaders held a series of talks with the United States, 10 European nations, and European Union representatives in Qatar earlier this week.

The international community has condemned some Taliban actions since their blitz takeover as the U.S. and NATO troops pulled out and the U.S.-backed Afghan government crumbled. The Taliban have brought back public hangings and other brutal tactics. They have allowed girls to return to primary school but have barred them from going to high school in all but one province. Women have not been allowed to return to work. 

The current, Taliban-appointed Afghan government, which the former insurgents say is only interim, is comprised solely of Taliban figures, including several blacklisted by the United Nations. 

Cavusoglu, speaking after the meeting in the Turkish capital, said they discussed the flights from Kabul’s airport after the Taliban requested Ankara’s help on the matter. He also said Turkey had made suggestions concerning a more inclusive Afghan government as well as the education of girls under the Taliban. 

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“We have conveyed our expectations concerning security for the resumption of regular flights” from Kabul, Cavusoglu said. “We have once again shared our advice concerning the education of girls and for the employment of women.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a virtual meeting Thursday between the Group of 20 most powerful economies that the international community should keep the channels of dialogue with the Taliban open, to “patiently and gradually steer” them toward establishing a more inclusive government. 

Erdogan said Turkey, which already hosts more than 3.6 million Syrians, cannot bear an influx of migrants from Afghanistan, warning that European nations would also be affected by a new wave of migrants. 

The Taliban say they want international recognition. They warn that weakening their government will affect security and spark an even bigger exodus of migration from the country.

Turkey has been working with Qatar to re-open the airport in Kabul for international travel. However, repairs are needed before commercial flights can resume. 

There are currently two airline carriers, Islamabad-based Pakistan International Airlines and Afghanistan’s privately-owned Kam Air, which operate chartered flights to and from Afghanistan but at high costs to account for the insurance.

On Thursday, PIA suspended its flights to Kabul hours after the Taliban threatened to ban the airlines unless they reduce costs. Abdullah Hafeez, spokesman for Pakistan’s national airline, said “the situation on the ground is not conducive for international flight operations,” without elaborating. 

There were reports that some PIA staff were mistreated by Taliban officials after refusing to discount ticket prices. There were no immediate details or comment from either PIA or the Taliban.

Hafeez called the atmosphere in Kabul “charged,” and blamed the exorbitant ticket prices on the cost of insurance PIA is required to buy to fly into Afghanistan. A one-way PIA ticket from Kabul to Islamabad costs around $1,500, up from $300 before the Taliban seized power in August, said Hafeez.