A delegation from the Afghan government has met with Taliban representatives in Tehran, according to the Iranian foreign ministry, as the armed group is making significant progress amid a withdrawal of US troops.
High-level peace talks between Afghan parties at war follow Qatar’s months-long talks that have been halted by a diplomatic stalemate and escalating violence.
Although officials clashed across Tehran’s vast tables and the top Iranian diplomat pledged to end the crisis, fighting escalated in the western province of Badghis, Afghanistan.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif opened talks on Wednesday with satisfaction over the departure of his American enemy from its eastern borders, but warned: “Today the people and political leaders of the United States “Afghanistan must make difficult decisions for the future of its country.”
Honored to host substantial and cordial dialogues between senior Afghan representatives.
When foreign forces leave Afghanistan, there is no impediment for Afghans of all political backgrounds to chart a peaceful and prosperous future for the next generation.
Iran is with our Afghan brothers. pic.twitter.com/nABlJfdXaP
– Javad Zarif (@JZarif) July 7, 2021
Deputy Chief Negotiator Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai led the Taliban delegation, while former Vice President Younus Qanooni represented the government, the Iranian ministry said.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed Stanikzai’s visit to Tehran to “discuss issues of mutual interest.”
But he made no reference to any Afghan government delegation, saying only that Stanikzai was holding talks with “some Afghan personalities.”
“They will discuss and exchange views on the current situation in the country and seek a solution through talks,” Mujahid added.
In his initial statements, the Iranian foreign minister hailed the “defeat” of U.S. troops after 20 years of war that had caused “extensive damage,” but warned of the “unfavorable results of continuing the conflict.” “.
Iran and Afghanistan share deep cultural ties and a border of 945 km (587 miles). Iran is home to several million Afghan refugees and migrant workers and is deeply concerned about the escalating turmoil in the neighboring country.
Amid the specter of another civil war in Afghanistan, fears have grown in Iran over a new wave of Afghans seeking refuge in the country, which is already struggling to worsen poverty under harsh sanctions from Afghanistan. USA.
Zarif called on the warring parties in Afghanistan to return to the negotiating table and defined that “commitment to political solutions is the best option for Afghanistan’s political leaders and movements.”
“We are proud to have been on the side of our noble Afghan brothers and sisters during the jihad against foreign occupiers,” he added, in a video excerpt from his speech released by the ministry.
The United States, which maintains strained relations with Iran but worked briefly with Tehran in Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks, was wary of the talks.
Afghanistan’s neighbors “have a stake in Afghanistan’s future” and can help “promote the cause of peace,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters in Washington, DC .
“Afghanistan’s neighbors must play a constructive role. What Iran is trying to do or is trying to do to organize this meeting can be constructive. I think the jury is still out, “Price said.
On Tuesday, Afghan authorities pledged to reclaim all districts lost by the Taliban when the withdrawal of U.S. forces was nearing completion.
Hundreds of commandos were deployed to counter the Taliban’s offensive bottle in the north, a day after more than 1,000 government soldiers fled to neighboring Tajikistan.
But on Wednesday, the Taliban attacked Qalat-i-Naw, the capital of Badghis province, the first regional headquarters they have entered since the launch of their latest offensive, local officials said.
The group already controls the entire countryside of the western province.
Meanwhile, the United States Central Command announced that the American retreat of the country, ordered in April by President Joe Biden, was already 90% complete, stressing that Afghan forces are increasingly alone in the battle with the Taliban.
Thanks to President-elect Ebrahim Raisi for his kind welcome. Delivery of a personal message from PM arenarendramodi. Thank you for your warm feelings for India. It deeply values its strong commitment to strengthening our bilateral ties and expanding cooperation on regional and global issues. pic.twitter.com/Ef7iEutkZi
– Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) July 7, 2021
Zarif also received India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar later that day, with the two discussing Afghan talks and other issues, according to Iran’s foreign ministry.
Jaishankar then met with Iran’s elected president, Ebrahim Raisi, and conveyed a message of congratulations from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, state television said.