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UPDATE - Turkey's primary goal is stability, security of Afghanistan

UPDATE - Turkey's primary goal is stability, security of Afghanistan
President Erdogan says Ankara will engage Taliban government, if necessary, discuss mutual agenda


By Merve Aydogan

ANKARA (AA) - Turkey’s president affirmed his country's commitment to Afghanistan's “stability and security” Thursday and said Ankara could hold talks with the government.

"We will meet with the government formed by the Taliban if necessary, and discuss our mutual agendas," Recep Tayyip Erdogan said following a five-hour Cabinet meeting at the presidential complex in the capital Ankara.

The Taliban seized control of the Afghan capital Kabul on Sunday, forcing President Ashraf Ghani and other top government officials to leave the country.

Noting that there are 5,000 Turkish citizens residing in Afghanistan for various reasons, Erdogan said 500 Turkish citizens along with 83 foreign nationals were brought to Turkey upon request.

"We will transfer our citizens, who are still waiting in line for their return, whose number is below 300, to our country as soon as possible," he added.

Erdogan further dismissed claims by the opposition that Turkey is hosting 1.5 million Afghan refugees.

"Turkey has no duty, responsibility, or obligation to be Europe's refugee storehouse," he said.

Regarding irregular migrants, Erdogan said at least 235,000 Afghans have been sent back.

He also said that nearly 450,000 Syrians in Turkey have returned back to regions that have been liberated from terrorists.

Turkey has been a key transit point for asylum seekers who want to cross into Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution.

Turkey, which already hosts 4 million refugees -- more than any country in the world -- is taking new security measures within and on borders to prevent a fresh influx of migrants.

- COVID-19 test mandatory for those unvaccinated

Turning to Turkey's ongoing coronavirus vaccination campaign, Erdogan said teachers and school personnel will be required to provide negative PCR tests at least twice a week with the start of face-to-face learning on Sept. 6.

"We will require our unvaccinated university students and university staff to undergo regular PCR testing," he said.

Public events such as concerts will soon require a negative PCR test to curb the spread of the virus.

"Airplanes and intercity bus travel will also require a PCR test," he said.

The Turkish president stressed that the COVID-19 vaccination is not and will not be mandatory in the country, but he urged all those eligible to receive their jabs.

Regarding wildfires that began after July 28, the president said 72,000 decares of cultivated and planted land, nearly 1,000 decares of greenhouses, 2,590 tons of stored products and 2,600 agricultural buildings were damaged.

He added that approximately 150,000 hectares of land were affected by fires in 54 provinces of Turkey in 2021.

Erdogan further affirmed that the burnt forests "will be revived and will not be used for any other purpose, including agriculture and tourism."

Turkey saw hundreds of forest fires in southern and southwestern provinces from July 28.

With intensive and dedicated efforts, all blazes were brought under control in just over two weeks.

At least eight deaths were reported, according to official figures.

source: News Feed
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