FM Zarif urges U.S. to withdraw from the region

December 19, 2020 - 22:6

TEHRAN – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has urged the U.S. to withdraw its troops from the West Asia region, the Fars news agency reported on Saturday.

Zarif put the spotlight on Iran's emphasis on the U.S. withdrawal from the region after the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani, underlining that Iran has always said that the United States should leave the region.

In an interview with the Afghan news channel Tolo News, the chief Iranian diplomat addressed various issues such as Tehran-Kabul relations, Iran’s relations with the Taliban, Afghan immigrants in Iran and the Fatemiyoun Brigade.

On the Taliban, Zarif said Iran has not removed the group from its terrorism list.

The Iranian foreign minister also answered a question on the Fatemiyoun Brigade, a group mainly comprised of Shia Afghans who have fought in Syria.

“These are the best forces the Afghan government can use if it wishes,” Zarif said of the Brigade.

The Zarif interview was not aired in full. It is expected to be broadcast in the next few days.

The interview comes against a backdrop of renewed efforts by Iran to maintain peace and security in neighbouring Afghanistan.

On Thursday, Majid Takht-Ravanchi, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, addressed a meeting of the UN Security Council on Afghanistan.

“Afghanistan’s decades-long insecurity and instability can end only through a comprehensive and inclusive Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process, involving all Afghan factions, including the Taliban, supported by neighbouring, regional and international partners,” Takht-Ravanchi said at the meeting.

The Iranian ambassador also voiced support for Afghan peace talks, saying the success of the talks “requires flexibility and patience by all sides, placing the interests of the people of Afghanistan above all other interests.”

Takht-Ravanchi expressed concern over the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan but at the same time, he called for an “orderly and responsible” withdrawal of these forces.

“As a manifestation of external interference, the presence of foreign forces is another source of Afghanistan’s instability. However, as many countries have stressed, their withdrawal must be orderly and responsible and must not lead to a security vacuum in Afghanistan. Accordingly, prior and simultaneous to the withdrawal of foreign forces, Afghanistan’s military and security forces must be supported and strengthened,” the Iranian diplomat said.

Over the past weeks, several Iranian officials, including Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Seyed Abbas Araghchi, paid visits to Afghanistan to discuss the Afghan peace process.

Araghchi met with his Afghan counterpart Mirwais Nab, Afghan National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib, Abdullah Abdullah, the head of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, and former Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Araghchi pointed to the connection between Tehran and Kabul, saying that peace and stability in neighbouring Afghanistan directly affect Iran.

“This association shows that peace and stability in Afghanistan is peace and stability in Iran and that the well-being of the Afghan people is directly related to the progress of the Iranian people, and this is a strategic fact,” the deputy foreign minister said.

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