Iran says ready to encourage all Afghan groups to back Kabul, join national talks

Iran says the recent visit to Tehran by a Taliban delegation was coordinated with Kabul, and that the Islamic Republic stands ready to engage in dialog with all political groups in neighboring Afghanistan with the aim of encouraging them to back the central government and take part in national peace talks.

Speaking at his weekly press conference on Tuesday, Ali Rabiei, spokesman for the Iranian administration, elaborated on the goals of the Taliban political team’s trip to the Iranian capital earlier this week.

The visit, he said, had been made “in coordination with the Afghan government and in line with the Islamic Republic of Iran’s long-standing policy of holding consultations with all political groups in Afghanistan with the purpose of promoting peace and stability in this country.”

Rabiei said Iran “is ready to consult, in full coordination with the Afghan government, with all political groups and ethnicities that play a part in the developments currently unfolding in Afghanistan and its political future, and encourage them to participate in national talks meant to achieve lasting peace.”

Given the long borders and the historical bonds that the two nations share, Afghanistan’s issues will have a direct impact on the security of Iran and that of its other neighbors, he said.

“That is the reason why Tehran cannot remain indifferent to insecurity and instability, but this does not mean the existence of a special link between the Taliban group and us,” Rabiei added.

The Iranian official added that the Taliban team’s visit was aimed at ensuring that all political groups, including the Taliban, support the Kabul government and contribute to the peace process in their homeland.

“We seek to make sure that the Taliban are determined [enough] on the path of peace and avoidance of violence,” Rabiei said.

He indicated Iran’s position that “security challenges in Afghanistan have no military solution.”

The official further reaffirmed Iran’s principled policy that peace should come about in Afghanistan based on the will and demands of people from all groups and ethnicities, free from the interference of extra-regional powers.

The Taliban delegation led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the group’s top political leader, arrived in Tehran on January 26 at the invitation of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, the latest in a series of such visits over the past months.

During their stay, the delegates met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Secretary of Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani and attended a press conference.

Afghanistan has been embroiled in decades of militancy fueled by foreign military intervention.

The intra-Afghan talks started after the United States agreed to withdraw 12,000 US troops from Afghanistan in exchange for the Taliban’s halting of their attacks on international forces under a deal between the two sides in February 2020.

The deal was intended to result in the reduction of bloodshed, but violence continues to take a heavy toll on the country.

The Taliban team’s visit to Tehran came amid heightened tensions between the Afghan group and the US, which reached a new high after the new administration accused the Taliban of failing to abide by the peace deal and said it would review the document.

The Taliban, however, rejected the claims, warning that US forces will be killed if they refuse to leave Afghan soil as per the agreement.

NATO has indicated that, with a new administration in Washington, it would maintain its forces in Afghanistan beyond the May withdrawal deadline.

The US first invaded Afghanistan in 2001 under the banner of fighting “terrorism.” The invasion toppled the Taliban, but the group has never stopped its attacks, citing the foreign military presence as one of the main reasons behind its continued militancy.

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