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UAE firm signs contract with Taliban to run Afghan airports

Reuters/Ali Khara
Afghan Deputy Prime Minister and United Arab Emirates (UAE) chief financial officer of GAAC firm hold a news conference, in Kabul

The Taliban administration announced on Thursday they would sign the third and final major contract for running Afghanistan’s airports with the United Arab Emirates’ GAAC Holding.

The contract would run for 10 years, Ghulam Jelani Popal, deputy head of Afghanistan’s ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, told reporters at a press conference in Kabul.

He added that the group had already signed contracts with UAE state-linked GAAC over ground services and security.

The agreements would help the Taliban ease their isolation from the outside world, with no foreign country formally recognising their government and strict enforcement of sanctions hampering the economy. It would also hand Abu Dhabi a win in its diplomatic tussle with Qatar for influence.

Ibrahim Moarafi, the General Manager and Regional Director of GAAC told reporters in Kabul that it would encourage major international airlines to return to Afghanistan.

“We believe this is the significant development,” he said. “We also believe this is a significant development as it will bring economic benefits in terms of job creation.”

The Taliban, whose government remains an international pariah without formal recognition, have courted regional powers, including Qatar and Turkey, to operate Kabul airport, landlocked Afghanistan’s main air link with the world, and others.

But after months of back-and-forth talks, and at one point raising the possibility of a joint UAE-Turkey-Qatar deal the Taliban in recent months decided to hand operations in their entirety to the UAE, sources had told Reuters in July.