Turkey’s Erdoğan says could meet Taliban leader

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday said he could meet with the leader of the insurgent Taliban group in an attempt to help secure peace in Afghanistan, Agence France-Presse reported.

Taliban fighters have captured more than a quarter of Afghanistan’s provincial capitals in less than a week.

Turkey currently has troops in Afghanistan as part of a NATO force and has offered to secure the strategic Kabul airport after US forces leave at the end of August.

Discussions continue between Turkish and American officials, and Turkey says it will secure the airport if diplomatic, financial and logistical conditions were met.

“The latest developments and the situation of the Afghan public are really, really troubling,” Erdoğan said during a televised interview with CNN Türk.

“Maybe I will even be in a position to receive the person who is their leader,” Erdoğan said after referring to efforts by Turkish officials for talks with the Taliban.

Erdoğan last month said Turkey would hold discussions with the Taliban as part of the peace process.

“Why? Because if we do not get a control of things like this at a high level, it won’t be possible to secure peace this time in Afghanistan,” he added.

Erdoğan’s more pressing domestic concern is the Turkish public’s fear of a wave of people fleeing Afghanistan as the insurgent group gains greater control over the country.

Turkey hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees, and as the Turkish economy deteriorates, resentment towards them has grown, with the main opposition calling for them to go.

Erdoğan stressed that Turkey had the issue under control with walls being built in the country’s east and south.

“Whether at the border with Iran or Iraq, our walls are rising significantly right now. These rising walls are to prevent illegal migration to our country,” he said.

US President Joe Biden ordered the American military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan before September 11, 2021, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the US by the Afghan-based, Taliban-backed al-Qaeda.

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