Taliban should end Afghanistan ‘occupation’, says Erdogan

Turkish President says Ankara is planning talks with Taliban on running Kabul Airport: Says Turkey can run Kabul airport if US meets conditions

By: News Desk      Published: 07:56 AM, 20 Jul, 2021
Taliban should end Afghanistan ‘occupation’, says Erdogan
President Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on the Taliban to work for peace, saying the Afghan Taliban should "end the occupation of their brothers' soil".

Speaking to reporters in Istanbul ahead of a visit to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), Erdogan said the Taliban's approach was not the way one Muslim should deal with another.

"In our view, the Taliban's approach right now is not how a Muslim behaves to another Muslim," he said, urging the insurgent group to stop its occupation

"(The Taliban) need to end the occupation of their brothers' soil and show the world that peace is prevailing in Afghanistan right away," he said.

Ankara, which has offered to run and guard the Kabul airport after NATO withdraws, has been in talks with the United States on financial, political and logistical support for the deployment.

Talks with Taliban on airport

Erdogan also said that Turkey was planning talks with the Taliban over the group's refusal to let Ankara run Kabul airport after US troops withdraw from Afghanistan.

"God willing, we will see what kind of talks we will have with the Taliban and see where these talks take us," he said. 

Erdogan and US President Joe Biden discussed the issue in their first face-to-face meeting on the margins of a NATO summit in June.

Turkey maintains hundreds of troops in Afghanistan, but a Turkish official has said that they were "not combat forces".

Last week, the Taliban called Turkey's offer "reprehensible".

"We consider the stay of foreign forces in our homeland by any country under whatever pretext as occupation," the group said. 

Kabul Airport

President Erdogan said Tuesday Turkey could run Kabul airport if its NATO ally the United States met certain conditions including on logistics and financing.

Turkey has been negotiating with US defence officials over its offer to help secure and run Kabul airport, which is key to allowing countries to retain a diplomatic presence in war-torn Afghanistan after the US troop withdrawal.

Erdogan and US President Joe Biden discussed the issue in their first face-to-face meeting on the margins of a NATO summit in June.

"We are right now looking positively" to the idea of running Kabul airport after US troops withdraw from Afghanistan, Erdogan told journalists in a televised address from Nicosia in northern Cyprus.

"But we want America to meet some conditions," he said.

"What are they? Firstly, America will stand by us in diplomatic relations. Secondly, they will mobilise their logistical means for us... and the other one is that there will be serious problems on financial and administrative issues, and they will give necessary support to Turkey," he added.

"If these conditions can be met, we, as Turkey, are planning to operate the Kabul airport."

"There's now a new era" in Afghanistan, Erdogan said while repeating Ankara's willingness to talk with the Taliban.

"The Taliban, who held some talks with America, should be able to talk about these issues with Turkey more comfortably," he said. 

"I believe we can reach an agreement."

Last week, the Taliban called Turkey's offer to secure and run Kabul airport "reprehensible".

Cyprus issue

Erdogan also touched upon the issue of Cyprus. He reiterated his call to all parties who desire a just, lasting and sustainable future in Cyprus to seize the historic opportunity. 

Turkish Cypriots have been fighting for equality and justice on the island for more than half a century, Erdogan told the news conference.

The Turkish Cypriot side has once again shown to the world who is in favour of solution and who is profiting from the deadlock, Erdogan said. 

He said that any new negotiation process on Cyprus can only be held between two equal and sovereign states. 

The Turkish president has embarked on a two-day official visit to TRNC. 

During his visit, Erdogan will address a special session of the Turkish Cypriot Parliament and attend celebrations of July 20 Peace and Freedom Day, marking the 47th anniversary of Turkey's 1974 Peace Operation, which protected the island's Turkish Cypriot community from Greek Cypriot violence. 

He will also meet with Turkish Cypriot President Ersin Tatar to exchange views on the latest developments in the Eastern Mediterranean and bilateral relations. 

Erdogan will also attend a mass inauguration ceremony of some completed projects. 

On-and-off peace process

Every year the TRNC celebrates July 20 as its Peace and Freedom Day to mark the peace operation. 

Cyprus has been mired in a decades-long dispute between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, despite a series of diplomatic efforts by the UN to achieve a comprehensive settlement. 

In the early 1960s, ethnic attacks forced Turkish Cypriots to withdraw into enclaves for their safety. 

In 1974, a Greek Cypriot coup aiming for the island to be annexed by Greece led to Turkey's military intervention as a guarantor power to protect Turkish Cypriots from persecution and violence. 

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) was founded in 1983. 

The island has seen an on-and-off peace process in recent years, including a failed 2017 initiative in Switzerland under the auspices of guarantor countries Turkey, Greece, and the UK. 

The Greek Cypriot administration entered the European Union in 2004, the same year that Greek Cypriots thwarted the UN's Annan plan to end the decades-long dispute.