Araqchi briefs Ghani on Iran’s talks with Taliban

January 5, 2019

TEHRAN – Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Seyyed Abbas Araqchi, who held talks with a Taliban delegation in Tehran on December 30, met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul on Saturday.

During the meeting, the two exchanged views about a range of issues, including ways to boost bilateral relations between the two neighboring countries and a better use of Iran’s Chabahar port.

Araqchi and Ghani talked about the peace process in Afghanistan and a comprehensive cooperation agreement between the two countries. 

The office of the Afghan president said Araqchi briefed Ghani about the meeting between Iranian officials and the Taliban.

On December 31, Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi announced that Iranian diplomats had held a meeting with a Taliban delegation in Tehran a day before.

During a press conference, Qassemi said that the Iranian negotiators were headed by Araqchi.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran shares borders with Afghanistan and has cultural and historical affinities with the country. As an important player in the region which seeks peace, stability and security, Iran wanted to enter these talks after negotiations with the Afghan government,” Qassemi stated.

Shortly before that, Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, had said Tehran had conducted a series of “contacts and talks with the Taliban group… with the knowledge of the Afghan government.” 

“The trend will continue,” Shamkhani said after visiting Kabul on December 26.

Last Tuesday, the Taliban confirmed that it had discussed Afghanistan’s “post-occupation situation” with Iran.

Taliban’s announcement signaled a growing confidence among the Taliban for U.S. troops to pull out of Afghanistan, after U.S. officials last month told various media outlets that President Donald Trump had decided to slash the number of boots on the ground.

Tehran's peace push will be viewed with concern by hawks in Washington, who fear that Trump's planned withdrawal of troops from Syria and Afghanistan will cede regional influence to Iran.

Iran and Afghanistan share a nearly 600-mile (960-kilometre) border, and have had a complex relationship in recent years.

Tehran has long supported its co-religionists in Afghanistan, the Shia Hazara minority, who were violently persecuted by the Taliban during its rule in the 1990s.

Araqchi held a separate meeting on Saturday with Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah to discuss a comprehensive document on cooperation between the two countries.

Araqchi expressed hope that the document would be finalized as soon as possible.

In June 2017, Iran and Afghanistan held the first round of talks on the comprehensive strategic partnership document as part of efforts to boost bilateral relations in various areas, including security and defense.

Abdullah, for his part, described the relations between the two countries as historic and based on friendship.

He also thanked Iran for hosting Afghan refugees.

Back in September, Araqchi visited Afghanistan and met with a number of high-ranking officials of the Central Asian country, including Abdullah.

Speaking in that meeting with Araqchi on September 11, Abdullah underlined the importance of his country’s relations with Iran and said the relationship will never be affected by a third country. 

He said the National Unity Government of Afghanistan is willing to complete and sign the comprehensive cooperation agreement between the two countries.

SP/PA

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