Iran confirms hosting Taliban delegation for peace talks

Iran says it has hosted a delegation from Taliban to discuss possible ways to end hostilities in Afghanistan.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi told reporters in Tehran on Monday that the extensive meetings between Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi and the group on Sunday were coordinated with the government of Afghanistan.

“Since the Taliban are in control of more than 50 percent of Afghanistan, and given the insecurity, instability and other issues that the country is dealing with, they [the Taliban] were interested in talks with Iran,” Qassemi said.

He said Iran has long borders with Afghanistan and always sought a constructive role to maintain peace in the region.

The Tehran meetings came days after it was confirmed that Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), had traveled to the war-torn country for initial talks.

US should leave Iraq, Syria

Qassemi then pointed to Trump’s recent trip to Iraq and his decision earlier this month to end the US military presence in Syria, saying Washington “should go back home.”

Trump’s unexpected announcement was met with criticism from both Democrats and Republicans, prompting Defense Secretary James Mattis to resign. The decision also led Brett McGurk, the US special envoy to the so-called anti-Daesh coalition in Syria and Iraq, to quit.

But Trump doubled down on his policy by also announcing that he would cut in half the roughly 14,000 US forces in Afghanistan.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a staunch ally of the US president, said Sunday that Trump had agreed to reevaluate the evacuation plan, meaning that the process was now in a “pause condition.”

Iran’s IRGC: US pullout from Syria sign of defeat

The deputy commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) says President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out US troops from Syria is a sign of Washington’s defeat in the region.

Qassemi said: “What we are clearly witnessing today is that America cannot have a presence in the region.”

Pointing to the trillions of dollars that Washington had spent on its Middle East wars, Qassemi said Trump’s unannounced visit to Iraq on Christmas amounted to a “violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and an insult to the people of Iraq.”

Iran rejects reports of EU conditions to save JCPOA

Elsewhere, Qassemi dismissed as “substantially false” reports that the European Union has set conditions for establishing a special payment channel that is supposed to secure its trade commitments under the 2015 nuclear with Tehran.

“Today, no country in the world is unmindful of Iran’s characteristics and everyone knows that Iran won’t allow others to set conditions for it,” Qassemi said.

Iran and the EU have been working on the so-called Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for a few months now, following US President Donald Trump’s decision in May to abandon the Iran deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA).

Since then, the Trump administration has targeted Iran’s oil and other key economic industries by introducing a series of economic sanctions, threatening other JCPOA signatories – the UK, France, China, Russia and Germany– to end business with Iran or face penalties.

China and Russia have already expressed their commitments to the deal. The SPV is designed to protect European businesses from US financial punishments but progress has been slower than expected.

‘Iran not waiting for Europe to fulfill JCPOA commitments’

The Iranian foreign minister says Tehran will not stand by for Europeans to fulfill their commitments under the JCPOA.

Qassemi said the hurdles that the SPV was faced with stemmed from “Europe’s inability to cope with the immense US pressure” and ultimately “the complex nature” of the mechanism that makes the process time consuming.

“We think Europe is largely incapable of withstanding the US and its pressure and lack the required ability to defend its European identity as well as its financial and economic institutions,” he said.

The spokesman stressed that Iran was not relying solely on the SPV and had quietly sought alternative plans with other countries such as China, Russia, India and Turkey.

“Although it has so far failed to meet the deadlines on the SPV, we hope that Europe can keep moving on this path and stay true to its commitments,” he added.

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