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US withdrawal turning point for all Afghan groups: Iranian President Raeisi

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raeisi says the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan must be considered a watershed moment by all political groups in the war-torn country.

Raeisi made the remarks in a phone conversation with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz on Monday, while answering the Austrian side’s question on Iran’s approach to the latest developments in the neighboring Afghanistan.

“The contemporary history shows that since Americans started to interfere in this country’s affairs, Afghanistan has not seen a good day. We believe that various Afghan groups must consider the US withdrawal a turning point and come up with a governance model in cooperation with each other, which would be accepted by the general public,” Iran’s president said.

The Afghan government headed by Ashraf Ghani rapidly collapsed on August 15 amid the withdrawal of US forces, 20 years after they invaded Afghanistan to topple the Taliban.

The withdrawal began in early May and was expected to be concluded by the end of August, but the US says it is considering extending the deadline.

Raeisi further stated that despite cruel sanctions against Iran, the country has so far shouldered all the material and spiritual costs of hosting the Afghan refugees.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran has made ceaseless and constant efforts to [help] establish peace and security in Afghanistan, and we are ready to cooperate with all governments that feel responsible for the establishment of peace and calm in Afghanistan,” the Iranian president said.

Iran’s president then touched on trade relations between Iran and Austria, emphasizing that there is no rational ground for reduction of bilateral trade as both countries would benefit from enhanced economic transactions.

“We must safeguard the two countries’ interests and do not allow ill-wishers to impact these relations through different plots,” Raeisi said.

The Austrian chancellor, for his part, expressed concern over the recent developments in Afghanistan and hailed Iran for hosting the Afghan refugees.

Kurz called for further expansion of relations between the two countries and expressed hope that the Vienna talks aimed at reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), would be resumed as soon as possible and end in success.

The JCPOA was reached between Iran and six world powers, including the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China in 2015. However, the deal was ditched by former US President Donald Trump in 2018 in spite of Iran’s full compliance with its contractual obligations.

Since April, the remaining signatories to the JCPOA have been holding face-to-face talks in the Austrian capital aimed at bringing the US back to compliance and putting the deal back on track.

So far, six rounds of negotiations have been held in Vienna, as a result of which, according to participants, “significant progress” has been made in the course of the “constructive” and “businesslike” talks.

However, disagreements have persisted over a number of issues, including how to sequence the US sanctions removal, with Tehran arguing that since Washington was the party that violated the terms of the agreement, it should take the first step back into compliance with the deal by removing its unilateral sanctions.

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