Tuesday Jun 15, 2021
BRUSSELS: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has proposed a new joint mission, which will also involve Pakistan and Hungary, to protect and run Kabul's international airport following the withdrawal of other NATO troops.
Talking to reporters Monday during the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) summit in Brussels, the Turkish president said his country would need "diplomatic, logistic and financial assistance" from the US if it were to maintain troops in Afghanistan for security operations.
According to TRT World, Ankara is reported to have offered to guard the airport amid concerns over the security along major transport routes and at the airport, which is the main gateway to Kabul.
"If they don't want us to leave Afghanistan, if they want a (Turkish) support there, then the diplomatic, logistic, and financial support that the United States will give us will be of great importance," Erdogan said.
Turkey currently has some 500 soldiers in the war-torn country.
In a statement, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the coalition has not decided during a leaders' summit on who would run the Kabul international airport after the troops’ withdrawal.
NATO committed to providing transitional funding for the Hamid Karzai airport and the NATO chief said Turkey would play a key role there.
Meanwhile, Tayyip Erdogan said he held a "fruitful and sincere" meeting with his US counterpart Joe Biden on the sidelines of the NATO summit.
"We believe there is no problem that cannot be resolved in Turkey-US relations," Erdogan added after holding his first meeting with Biden since his election.
Relations between the two NATO allies nosedived after Turkey’s purchase of a Russian S-400 missile defence system that the US believes can be used to spy on Western defences.
Erdogan announced no progress on the S-400 dispute. Washington imposed sanctions on Turkey’s military procurement agency for the purchase last year.
It also expelled Turkey from the F-35 programme under which Western allies produce the next-generation fighter jet’s parts and secure its early purchasing rights.
"On the issue of S-400s, I told (Biden) the same thing I had in the past," Erdogan said.
"I raised the issue of F-35s," Erdogan said in a signal that he wanted Turkey admitted back into the programme.
"I told him what joint steps we can take on the defence industry."