German chancellor to stay in Berlin as talks continue with Taliban for evacuation of Afghans who want to leave country
BERLIN (AA) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel has cancelled her planned visit to Israel this weekend due to developments in Afghanistan, her office announced on Thursday.
The visit “has been cancelled in consultation with the Israeli Prime Minister due to the current developments in Afghanistan,” Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement.
He said both sides have agreed to reschedule the outgoing chancellor’s visit to a later date.
The news came on the same afternoon as reports of an explosion outside the airport serving Kabul, the Afghan capital, where thousands are waiting to be evacuated from the country.
Germany’s plans to evacuate its citizens, Afghan local staff, and their family members from the country have been hampered by the deteriorating security situation in Kabul.
The German military was planning to carry out its final evacuation flights on Thursday, while Germany’s special envoy Markus Potzel was holding talks with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar to allow civilian airlifts after the Aug. 31 deadline.
The Taliban have repeatedly said they would not extend the Aug. 31 deadline for the full withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, including those currently controlling Kabul airport.
Since the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul, Germany has evacuated nearly 5,200 people from Afghanistan, but thousands more Afghans who worked for the German military, development agencies, or other institutions are still trying to flee the country.
Merkel’s coalition government has been criticized for failing to anticipate the Taliban’s swift takeover of Afghanistan, and ignoring repeated earlier warnings to evacuate thousands of Afghan local staff, their family members, as well as women’s rights activists and politicians who have close ties with the country.
The Taliban’s Aug. 15 capture of Kabul triggered an exodus of foreign nationals and workers, along with Afghans who worked with foreign militaries and groups.
The Taliban has said it is working to form a government that would be inclusive.