GeneralQasem Suleimani

US-Taliban deal does not serve Afghan people interests: Zarif

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says all Afghan groups reserve the right to have a say in their country’s future, adding that the so-called peace agreement signed between the United States and the Taliban falls short of serving the interests of Afghan people.

In an interview with Afghanistan’s TOLOnews channel on Monday, Zarif said the US presence in Afghanistan had hurt the feelings of certain factions in that were later exploited by Daesh, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban to serve their own terrorist purposes.

Tehran, he noted, has called for the withdrawal of American forces from the region and believes that the US assassination of top Iranian anti-terror commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani would accelerate the process.

“We want a lawful and responsible withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan that should be based on the demands of the Afghan people and it should be a responsible security transition to the Afghan forces. We do not want it in the current form as the Americans go and negotiate with the Taliban,” Zarif said.

Asked whether the US-Taliban closeness was harmful to Iran, he replied, “What is harmful to Iran and Afghanistan is that the US signs an agreement with the Taliban and wants to impose it on the Afghan people.”

“Currently, we do not exactly know what the US position in Afghanistan is. If it is what is reflected in their talks with the Taliban and in their agreement with the Taliban, we certainly oppose it. We see that as a dangerous act. It is not in the interest of the Afghan people. It is just an internal decision to justify the US withdrawal,” he added.   

The top Iranian diplomat also stressed that the so-called peace negotiations, which took place in Qatar on September 12, were actually an electoral campaign for US President Donald Trump.

“We issued a statement in support of the meeting. But we will not participate in an electoral campaign program of the United States. The meeting turned out to be an electoral campaign with the presence of [US Secretary of State] Mr. [Mike] Pompeo. From our perspective, Mr. Trump sacrificed Afghanistan for the sake of his election campaign, and the very great harm he inflicted on Afghanistan will be realized in the future,” he said.

Zarif further explained Iran’s policy towards neighboring Afghanistan, saying the Afghan people, including the Taliban, should determine their own fate.    

“Our policy towards Afghanistan has never changed and it has been always to support the Afghan government and the Afghan people. We are of the opinion that all Afghan groups should decide Afghanistan’s future. This is the policy of [Iran’s] government,” he said.

“So, we have always had ties with legal governments of Afghanistan and we are happy for having played an active role over the past 20 years with the legitimate government of Afghanistan, which was formed on a democratic basis and with the observation of people’s rights. This active cooperation included — but was not limited to — the Bonn Conference, Tokyo Conference, and the inauguration of the Khaf-Herat railway line, the most recent achievement in our ties.”

Regarding Iran’s relations with the Taliban, Zarif said the country “will surely work” with the group, but “we do not sit with them to decide the future of Afghanistan and sign an agreement.”

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