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UAE set to run Kabul airport in deal with IEA: sources

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(Last Updated On: July 8, 2022)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), and the United Arab Emirates are poised to strike a deal for the Gulf nation to run Kabul airport and several others in Afghanistan that could be announced within weeks, according to sources familiar with the negotiations, Reuters reported.

According to the report the IEA, 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 IEA is set to hand the operations in their entirety to the UAE, who had previously run Afghan airports, the sources said.

An agreement would help the IEA ease their isolation from the outside world as they govern an impoverished country beset by drought, widespread hunger and economic crisis. It would also hand Abu Dhabi a win in its diplomatic tussle with Qatar for influence, Reuter’s story read.

Under the deal with the UAE, Afghans will be employed at the airports, including in security roles, crucial for the IEA who want toshow they can create jobs but also because they staunchly oppose the presence of foreign forces, sources said.

According to Reuters an Emirati state-linked contractor had been contracted to provide security services, which should be announced soon, while negotiations over airspace management are ongoing, they said.

The IEA in May awarded the ground services contract to UAE state-linked GAAC, which was involved in running security and ground handling services at Afghan airports before the IEA takeover, shortly after IEA officials had visited Abu Dhabi.

Meanwhile, Qatar and Turkey’s joint negotiations with the IEA broke down around the same time, sources said.

Emirati officials had no immediate comment when contacted by Reuters. GAAC did not respond to a request for comment.

An IEA transport ministry spokesman confirmed an aviation security contract had already been signed with the UAE but said the air traffic contract was not finalised or confirmed yet, Reuters reported.

There is little direct commercial benefit in the airport operations, but Kabul airport would provide a key source of intelligence on movements in and out of the country, Western officials say.

The sources said UAE airlines, which have not flown to Afghanistan since the IEA takeover last year, were expected to resume flights to Kabul and possibly other Afghan airports after the deal was finalized, read the report.

Other airlines, who too have stayed away, could also again operate flights if the UAE deal can address substantial security concerns, including the threat posed by the Afghan branch of the Islamic State whose targets have included the IEA.

In the months leading up to the ground services being awarded to the UAE, the IEA repeatedly made unexplained changes to its team negotiating with Qatar and Turkey, the sources said.

Then the IEA sought to alter agreed terms by upping airport fees and taxes and weaken Qatar and Turkey’s control over revenue collection, they added.

A Qatari official had no immediate comment when contacted by Reuters. A Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed talks with the IEA had stopped “some time ago”.

The UAE’S efforts are part of a quiet but assertive push by Abu Dhabi to expand longstanding ties with the IEA that have included government aid and diplomatic efforts in the months since the IEA took power in August.

Western officials say Abu Dhabi sees Afghanistan, which shares a large land border with UAE’s Gulf neighbour Iran, as part of its wider backyard and so believes it has legitimate interests in the country’s political and economic stability, Reuters reported.

But those officials also say the UAE is keen to counter the influence in Afghanistan of Qatar, a Gulf state lauded by Western nations for serving as gateway to the IEA but a rival of Abu Dhabi’s in a contest for regional influence.

Western officials worry that rivalry is now playing out in Afghanistan. The UAE, along with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain, cut ties with Qatar from 2017 until 2021 as part of a long-running, bitter dispute between the two rich Gulf states that was largely resolved last year.

Qatar has hosted the IEA’s political office in Doha, long one of few places to meet the IEA and where the United States negotiated with the IEA to withdraw from Afghanistan.

Qatar also helped run Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport after the collapse of the Western-backed government last year. Its state-owned Qatar Airways operated charter flights and Qatari special forces provided security on the ground.

But Qatar’s relationship with the IEA now appears strained, according to Western officials who say the IEA have become wary of being too dependent on any one nation.

Business

IEA trade delegation heads to Moscow

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(Last Updated On: August 14, 2022)

A delegation of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) led by the acting minister of industry and commerce left Kabul Sunday for Moscow to purchase essential commodities including fuel.

“We will try to sign agreements for the purchase of basic commodities including wheat, sunflower cooking oil (as they have big factories for it) and also fuel including diesel, petrol and LPG gas,” Nooruddin Azizi, the acting minister of industry and commerce, said before his departure. “We are in talks with their major companies.”

Azizi said that during the visit they will met with the ministries of agriculture, energy and commerce.

“We hope we will have a great achievement which will be in the interest of the Afghan people,” he said.

Food and fuel prices have gone up significantly in recent months in Afghanistan, the economy of which has been isolated following last August’s political change.

“The industry and commerce minister’s trip to Moscow under existing circumstances holds special significance. We should engage with all countries to boost trade and seize the opportunities,” said Sakhi Ahmad Paiman, deputy head of the Chamber of Industries and Mines.

Mirwais Haji Zada, deputy head of the Chamber of Agriculture and Livestock, said that there is an opportunity to increase trade with Russia.

He said that Afghanistan can also increase pomegranate and dried fruits exports to Russia.

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MTN receives $35 million offer for Afghanistan operation

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(Last Updated On: August 12, 2022)

South Africa’s MTN Group has received a binding offer for 100% of its shares in MTN Afghanistan for a consideration of approximately $35 million, the company has confirmed.

The identity of the buyer was not disclosed but the operator expects the transaction to be concluded within roughly six months, South African media reports indicated.

The sale will mark the completion of the group’s planned exit from its consolidated Middle East and Central Asia markets following the sale of its business in Yemen and the loss of its Syrian operations last year.

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Muttaqi urges China to help increase Afghan export volume

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(Last Updated On: August 10, 2022)

Afghanistan’s Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi met with Beijing’s visiting special envoy to Kabul on Tuesday and called on China to pave the way for Afghan exports.

During the meeting, held in Kabul, Muttaqi thanked the Chinese government for starting the visa issuance process in Kabul for Afghan traders, calling it beneficial for bilateral trade between the two countries.

China’s envoy Yue Xiaoyong said that he was working on bilateral and multinational relations with Afghanistan, and spoke about the “encouraging news during his recent regional visits,” according to a statement from the Afghan foreign ministry.

Yue also praised the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) for its efforts and achievements, adding that the new Afghan government has been able to fulfill challenging and significant tasks in a short period of time, and that it had managed the natural disasters and cold winter well, the statement said.

The Chinese special envoy said bilateral relations with Afghanistan had progressed significantly, adding that the meetings between the two countries’ foreign ministers depicted deep relations between the two nations.

He also said that in addition to pine nuts, China was considering importing other dried and fresh fruits to help Afghanistan’s economy.

China’s special envoy arrived in Kabul after visiting Turkey, Pakistan and India to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.

In Kabul, the envoy also met with Acting Defense Minister Mohammad Yaqub Mujahid, where they discussed the need for bilateral cooperation.

Mujahid told the envoy that Afghanistan would facilitate investment in the country.

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