UAE wins contract to operate Afghan airport ground services - presidential adviser

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Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser of UAE's President, speaks during a joint news conference with Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides, Greece's Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi in Paphos, Cyprus April 16, 2021. Iakovos Hatzistavrou/Pool via REUTERS

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May 25 (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates has won a contract to operate ground services at three airports in Afghanistan, UAE presidential adviser Anwar Gargash said on Wednesday on Twitter, confirming an announcement made earlier by the Taliban.

Turkey and Qatar were also competing for the contract and had sent technical teams to help airport operations and security after the Taliban took over in August last year, as foreign forces withdrew from Afghanistan. read more

The Taliban's acting deputy prime minister, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar told reporters in Kabul on Tuesday that his administration agreed to renew an airport ground handling agreement with the UAE.

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"The well-deserved win to operate ground services in three Afghan airports, which came after a big competition with several states, is underpinned by the UAE's capability and competence in civil aviation management and safety," Gargash said.

It was not immediately clear whether the agreement went beyond existing arrangements or if it included airport security, a sensitive issue for the Taliban.

A source briefed on the negotiations in Afghanistan told Reuters that a sticking point in the negotiations with Qatar had been Doha's condition that Qatari security personnel be present at the airports.

The Taliban, which fought for decades against U.S.-led NATO troops, say they do not want the return of international forces.

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Reporting by Yasmin Hussein in Cairo and Mohammad Yunus Yawar in Kabul, writing by Maher Chmaytelli, editing by Andrew Heavens, Kirsten Donovan

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