Iran to host intra-Afghan peace talks: report

July 17, 2021 - 19:21

TEHRAN – Iran is planning to host a meeting between the Afghan government and other Afghan groups to bring peace to war-torn Afghanistan, Fars News reported. 

The Iranian news agency did not say if the Taliban will take part in the Tehran peace talks but it said all Afghanistan’s “internal groups” will be present in the meeting, implying that a delegation from the Taliban may participate in the meeting. It also did not set any date for the talks, but said they will take place “soon.”

According to Fars News, these days Iran is trying to ensure peace, stability and lasting security for the people of Afghanistan by holding dialogue sessions and interaction between the groups and the government, while denying violence and focusing on a political solution. Iran's initiative in holding this meeting can save the people of Afghanistan from the current crisis to a great extent, it added.

The meeting will be hosted by an Iranian organization called “Global Forum of Islamic Awakening” and will be held virtually. 

Iran has recently played host to Afghan peace talks for the second time. In early July, delegations from the Afghan government and the Taliban descended on Tehran to discuss ways to achieve peace in the midst of U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

To this end, Iran hosted a meeting between a Taliban delegation and a group of figures who support the republican system. Iran hosted a meeting between a Taliban delegation and a group of figures who support the republican system on July 8-9. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who led the talks, urged both sides to show courage in making peace. 

“Courage in peace is more important than courage in war, because peace needs sacrifice and forgiveness, needs ignoring one's maximal demands, and paying attention to the other side's demands, especially in these talks where there is no other side, and both sides are brothers seeking peace and calm for the Afghan nation,” Zarif told the Afghan participants. 

The Iranian foreign minister added, “What I ask you is that use this opportunity and end the war in Afghanistan as soon as possible, and provide the Afghan people with the chance to develop.”

He also voiced Iran’s readiness to facilitate peace talks. “The Islamic Republic of Iran is always ready to facilitate your talks in any way you prefer,” he pointed out.

It was the second time Iran officially hosted a delegation from the Taliban, a group with which Iran has avoided talking given its track record of bad relations with Iran when it was in power. The history of Iran-Taliban relations carries a lot of antagonistic baggage, most notably due to the group’s anti-Shia leanings and its killing of Iranian diplomats in Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998, which brought Iran and the Taliban-led Afghanistan close to an all-out war. 

But now the Taliban is part of the reality on the ground and Iran has said that the group cannot be ignored, though it should not be seen as the whole reality either. According to this assessment, Iran has done everything in its power to bring peace to its war-torn neighbor and it has the support of Pakistan in this regard. 

Iran was also affected by the ongoing infighting in Afghanistan as a number of Afghan border guards fled to Iran during a clash with the Taliban. 

“Considering the clashes that erupted at the Islam-Qala and Abu Nasr Farahi customs facilities inside the Afghan territory, a number of Afghan staff members entered into the Iranian soil,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a statement. He pointed out that Iran will take the necessary measures according to the rules and regulations and based on its border agreements with Afghanistan and within the framework of good neighborliness principle.

Iranian media outlets quoted sources in the military as saying that Iran is preparing a flight to Kabul at the request of the Afghan government to return the staff and troops.

The Taliban has attacked the Afghan government’s positions along the Iran-Afghanistan borders, taking control of at least two border crossings. The group’s advances pushed some Afghan government forces to flee to Iran. 

The Afghan government has called on Iran to make arrangements for the return of its border troops to Kabul, and by accepting this request, Iran is preparing a direct flight to Kabul to return the troops, according to Nour News. 

Citing a source in the Iranian armed forces, the news website said that the Afghan government has asked Tehran for help in returning its border guards, who took refuge in Iran on Thursday following a Taliban attack on the Islam Qala border crossing.

“Kabul officials have called on Iran to make arrangements for the return of the troops to Kabul, and Iran is preparing a direct flight to Kabul to repatriate the troops, given its humanitarian approach,” the source said.

It was in these circumstances that Iran hosted talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Iran also intensified diplomatic contacts with Kabul. Mohammad-Ebrahim Taherian, the Iranian foreign minister's special envoy for Afghanistan affairs, held phone talks with former Afghan president Hamid Karzai on the latest security developments in the country and the current situation in Afghanistan.

In the phone call, the two sides exchanged views on the latest status of peace talks and negotiations between the parties involved in Afghanistan.

Taherian also underlined the necessity for the settlement of the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan through peaceful ways and preventing the outbreak of a civil war in the country.

A senior delegation of the Afghan government and Taliban representatives have met in Doha for high-stakes negotiations as violence escalates on the ground in Afghanistan, Al Jazeera reported on Saturday.
The two sides have been meeting on and off for months in the Qatari capital but the talks have lost momentum as a string of battlefield gains by the armed group has coincided with foreign forces finalizing their withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The government delegation is comprised of several high-ranking officials, including former chief executive Abdullah Abdullah. Its reported aim is to support the government’s negotiating team in terms of speeding up the stalled talks.

“During his visit, Abdullah Abdullah will discuss important and crucial issues with Taliban representatives,” Fraidoon Kwazoon, the Afghan government delegation spokesman, told Al Jazeera.

“The solution to the conflict in Afghanistan lies in negotiations, and peace can be reached through dialogue,” he said.

For his part, Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem said the group has “repeatedly confirmed its readiness for dialogue and negotiations”, adding that the problems can “only be solved by dialogue”.

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