Evacuation from Kabul: FDFA organises charter flight to Uzbekistan and supports air bridge for people leaving Afghanistan

Bern, 20.08.2021 - On 21 August 2021, a SWISS plane will fly to Tashkent to pick up people previously evacuated from Kabul. The plane will bring Swiss citizens and people from different countries to Europe. With this flight, the FDFA is supporting the air bridge of international partner states that is allowing people to leave Afghanistan. In a telephone conversation with his Uzbek counterpart Abdulaziz Kamilov on 19 August 2021, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis, head of the FDFA, was able to ensure that various logistical problems for the charter flight are being resolved and thanked him for Uzbekistan's support for the evacuation efforts. On Saturday, about 1.3 million masks for Uzbekistan will be brought to Tashkent on this charter flight to protect against COVID-19.

Anyone wanting to leave Kabul after the Taliban took power in Afghanistan can currently generally only do so via the airport. The airport itself is controlled by the US military, but the trip from the Afghan capital to the airport is unsafe and access to the airport building is difficult. People wishing to leave the country are only taken to the gates at the airport if there is room in the German military's planes leaving for Tashkent. In parallel, military planes are bringing people to other destinations as well.

The Uzbek capital has taken on a key role under these circumstances: people flown in from Kabul must be able to continue their journey swiftly so that space is freed up in Tashkent for new military aircraft arriving from Kabul. To this end, the FDFA will send a SWISS aircraft, a Boeing 777-300 ER with about 300 seats, with medical personnel on board, to the Uzbek capital on Saturday. This charter flight is a concrete, burden-sharing contribution made by Switzerland, joining the evacuation efforts of the international community. As part of this, 14 Swiss citizens have been able to reach Switzerland, thanks to flights operated by Germany and the US. Switzerland is working closely with partner states to coordinate evacuation efforts.

In a telephone conversation, Cassis thanked Kamilov for Uzbekistan's support for the evacuation from Kabul. During this call, he discussed solutions to various logistical issues at Tashkent airport with his counterpart, giving the green light to the SWISS charter flight on 21 August 2021. The Swiss embassy in Tashkent is assuring on-site logistics at the airport.

The SWISS flight will bring protective material against COVID-19 to Tashkent from Zurich. Around 1.3 million medical masks are on board, provided by the Armed Forces Pharmacy. Kamilov thanked Cassis for this delivery of humanitarian aid.

FDFA in contact with Swiss citizens
The FDFA is continuing to work tirelessly to evacuate its local personnel, Swiss citizens and people with close ties to Switzerland. The Swiss embassy in Islamabad, responsible for consular matters in Afghanistan, is maintaining regular contact with the roughly 35 Swiss citizens still there. This number has increased because more Swiss citizens have reported their presence to the embassy in Islamabad over the course of the last few days.

The DDPS is assisting the FDFA in its evacuation efforts on the basis of the Federal Council's decision of 15 August. An FDFA detachment with army specialists flew to Tashkent on 17 August and is working with the Swiss embassy and partners on the ground. On the same day, an FDFA staff member travelled on to Kabul with part of the army detachment. In the area of the airport secured by the US military, the specialists are aiding the evacuation preparations. On the ground, they are maintaining contact with international partners, organisations and other actors.

The FDFA is very concerned about the grave security situation in Afghanistan. It strongly urges all actors involved to comply with international humanitarian law and respect human rights. Afghan and foreign citizens wishing to leave the country must not be hindered from doing so freely. In particular, safe and non-discriminatory access to Kabul's airport must be guaranteed.

Switzerland has been demonstrating its commitment in Afghanistan for many years through an SDC programme. It has also been supporting international efforts to promote peace and security in Afghanistan - for example, through its participation in the meetings of the International Contact Group on Afghanistan and the two major donor conferences for Afghanistan it hosted in Geneva in 2018 and 2020.

Switzerland is willing to continue its engagement under the current circumstances. It is examining ways to deliver humanitarian aid and is willing to provide its good offices, should all the actors involved so desire.

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Federal Department of Foreign Affairs

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