Doha, Qatar – Qatar’s foreign minister has reiterated his country’s position on addressing the situation in Afghanistan, saying Doha will continue to work towards enhancing humanitarian and economic efforts in the war-torn country.
In a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart in Qatar’s capital Doha on Monday, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said Qatar will work with ally Turkey and Taliban officials to ensure that Kabul’s international airport, the site of chaotic scenes after the Taliban takeover, continues to function.
Sheikh Mohammed was speaking to reporters alongside Turkey’s FM Mevlut Cavusoglu after the pair met as part of the seventh annual Qatar-Turkey Strategic Dialogue.
The two-day meeting, co-chaired by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, is expected to end with the signing of at least 12 MoUs on Tuesday across various fields including the military, health, tourism, and education sectors, among others.
Cavusoglu said Turkey was seeking to work for “peace and stability” in Afghanistan as he urged the international community to engage in dialogue with the Taliban and called on them to “differentiate” between the political and humanitarian side of things.
“This is what we have done as Afghans are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance,” he said, adding that Turkey is cooperating with Qatar on offering humanitarian assistance and on ensuring Kabul’s airport remains open.
Qatar and Turkey have a strong and strategic relationship at political, economic and military levels.
The Supreme Strategic Committee was established in 2014 to enhance relations between the two countries.
On Monday, the two ministers reaffirmed their strong ties, telling reporters that they had reviewed various regional and international issues and discussed steps that would further cement relations.
Among the regional issues discussed was the ongoing conflict in Libya where Qatar and Turkey backed the UN-recognised government in the west of the country.
The two officials also discussed the war in Syria, saying a “political solution” is urgently needed before Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government can be invited to rejoin the Arab League.
There is “no sense” in normalising ties with Syria without it first taking serious steps towards a “political solution”, Sheikh Mohammed said.
“I don’t think we are in a position to offer him [Assad] a free pass to come to the Arab League,” he said, a statement that Cavusoglu agreed with.
The absence of a political solution will “embolden this regime to continue its aggression on Idlib”, he said, referring to the last rebel-held enclave in northwestern Syria on the border with Turkey – which backs several opposition groups.
A key example of the two countries’ strong ties is the presence of a Turkish military base in Qatar, which houses some 5,000 troops.
In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt imposed a land, air and sea blockade against Qatar. At the time, Erdogan dubbed the military base “the symbol of brotherhood, friendship, solidarity and sincerity”.
Turkey stepped up the export of essential goods to Qatar throughout the blockade to replace products that used to come through the land border with Saudi Arabia or through UAE’s Jebel Ali Port.
The seventh annual meeting comes at a time when Turkey is attempting to bolster its role in the region, and amid an economic crisis that has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Erdogan is expected to visit the UAE in February next year and has said in recent weeks that Ankara is planning to rekindle ties with Egypt and Saudi Arabia.