Iran: EU, Taliban asked to attend Tehran meeting on Afghanistan

October 31, 2021 - 21:34

TEHRAN – Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh has said that the European Union and the Taliban had asked to participate in the meeting on Afghanistan in Tehran.

Foreign ministers of the countries neighboring Afghanistan met in Tehran on October 27.

The Taliban and other Afghan groups had expressed interest in attending the conference in Tehran, Khatibzadeh said when asked whether the Taliban had been invited to attend the meeting. 

He added that Iran had also received requests from others to attend the conference.

“We received requests for attendance in the Tehran summit, the European Union for example, was interested in attending the summit as an observer,” he said. 

The spokesman also said that all these requests were discussed at the Tehran summit, because the format of Afghanistan's neighboring countries is based on “consensus.”

The first meeting on Afghanistan was hosted by Pakistan in September. 

According to Khatibzadeh, all countries must reach a single decision on an issue. 

He said, “At the Tehran summit, the request of the governing body of Afghanistan [Taliban] was examined and the necessary decision was agreed to be made at the meeting of special representatives.”

China, which shares a 46-mile border with Afghanistan, is set host the next meeting on Afghanistan in 2022.

Meanwhile, Iranian Ambassador to China Mohammad Keshavarzzadeh has said that Tehran and Beijing share the same view on Afghanistan, underlining that they can work together to counter terrorism in the war-torn country.

Keshavarzzadeh told the Global Times that both Iran and China have the same view about rooting out terrorism in Afghanistan and its spillover to neighboring countries as well as honoring a non-interference policy and territorial integrity in the country.

He said Iran supported the use of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative to improve the economy and people's livelihoods in Afghanistan. The ambassador praised China's pledge to host the third round of the meeting of foreign ministers of neighboring countries of Afghanistan and noted that Iran will lend its support to China.

The foreign ministers of Iran, China, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, along with Russia, held a meeting on Afghanistan in Tehran last week on Wednesday. 

The Tehran meeting resulted in an agreement to hold the next round of the meeting in 2022 in China, indicating that the neighboring countries of Afghanistan succeeded in establishing a credible platform to address issues related to peace and security in Afghanistan.

The meeting approved a ministerial joint statement that addressed a range of issues of much interest to all the participants of the Tehran gathering, formally known as the “Meeting of Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan’s Neighboring Countries + Russia.”

It was held in continuation of another meeting held in Pakistan in early September. During the Pakistan meeting, the participants agreed to hold the next meeting in Tehran.

The joint statement of the Tehran meeting noted that “an inclusive and broad-based political structure with the participation of all ethno-political groups is the only solution to the Afghanistan issues.”

It also called on “the international community to provide humanitarian assistance on urgent basis.” 

Furthermore, the statement called on the “international community to remain positively engaged with Afghanistan and develop long term roadmap to advance the agenda of political engagement, economic integration and regional connectivity.”

To make sure that the meeting serves the interests of all the participants, the statement took note of “the assurances and commitments of relevant responsible Afghan parties to the international community that the territory of Afghanistan will not pose any threats to the neighboring countries and will not be used by criminal, terrorist and separatist groups, and cut ties with all kinds of terrorist groups, strike and eliminate them in a decisive manner.”

The Taliban has welcomed the meeting. Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban's spokesman, told Fars News Agency that the Tehran meeting was positive.

“It was a meeting between Tehran and Afghanistan's neighbors that had positive results,” he said. 

He added: “The Taliban expect from this and other similar meetings to cooperate with the Afghans and to take steps to recognize the Taliban so that we can interact with the world, our neighbors and the region as a responsible party.”

Mujahid continued, “The Taliban's position on such meetings is that the international community and different countries should interact with the Taliban in various fields.”

Taliban deputy spokesman Ahmadullah Wasiq also praised the Tehran meeting and called it in Afghanistan's favor.

Responding to a request from foreign ministers of Afghanistan’s neighbors for a comprehensive government, he said there was a possibility of a change in the Taliban’s cabinet.

“We support this meeting, as it was expected, and it was positive and in Afghanistan's favor,” Wasiq added.

Keshavarzzadeh said the mechanism set up in the Tehran meeting would further enhance cooperation among neighboring countries of Afghanistan. “Iran, for its part will lend its support to China and believes that this mechanism will further increase cooperation and understanding among neighboring countries of Afghanistan and contribute effectively to their joint efforts toward helping Afghan people better safeguard their interests and step into the path of peace, inclusiveness, friendship and well-being,” he said. 

The ambassador added, “Iran is also supporting giving full play to the role that regional economic initiatives and organizations like the Belt and Road Initiative, SCO and ECO can have in improving the economy and the livelihood of the people of Afghanistan.”

According to the diplomat, the meeting mechanism of Afghanistan's neighboring countries serves as a “very important regional arrangement to support peace, reconciliation and national unity in Afghanistan.”

Keshavarzzadeh told the Global Times that all of the neighboring countries are very much concerned about terrorism in Afghanistan. He called on the Taliban to strive to fulfill its commitment to counter-terrorism.

Iran and China share common views on different regional and international issues, said the diplomat who stressed that an inclusive and broad-based political structure with the participation of all ethno-political groups is the only solution to the Afghan issue.

“Tehran's meeting was mainly concentrated on promoting the political solution to the Afghanistan crisis. Iran's position on this has been consistent and principled. We believe that forming an inclusive political structure that represents all ethnic and religious groups of this country is imperative and during this conference Iran has reaffirmed that international recognition would not fly without internal reconciliation and a full-fledged representative government at home. Regional countries and members of the international community at large should help bring about a consensus in Afghanistan to secure lasting peace and prosperity,” he said.

Another point of significance, the ambassador noted, is how to face the legacy of foreign interference in the region. "In this regard, any kind of action that could lead to renewal of irresponsible and bullying actions in Afghanistan should be avoided and the US and its NATO allies who created this chaotic situation should not shrink from their responsibilities," said the ambassador.

He mentioned that it's important for Afghanistan to have access to its financial resources in order to avoid further suffering, especially as winter approaches. "Last but not the least is the fundamental importance of observing human rights in Afghanistan, in particular, the rights of women and girls and all ethnic and religious groups," he said.

He pointed out, “Afghanistan's political structure and development path are up to the Afghan people to decide. All the ethno-political groups and parties should participate in an inclusive government that will lead to national reconciliation, peace and integrity.”

According to the ambassador, Iran now hopes to help with the urgent needs of the Afghan people. Sending humanitarian assistance, opening borders at the earliest possible time to facilitate and normalize trade activities, providing fuel for the coming cold season, paying due attention to refugees and displaced people and keeping the diplomatic missions functioning are all important actions taken by Iran in accordance with brotherly relations, he said.

He called on the international and regional organizations, in particular the UN and its agencies, to shoulder responsibilities and provide Afghanistan and its neighboring countries with necessary assistance. 

He said that Iran has declared its readiness to act as the hub for delivering goods and equipment into Afghanistan. “Since Iran has been hosting more than 3 million Afghan nationals for more than three decades and its economy is strained by illegal and oppressive sanctions by the US, Iran should be provided with support from members of the international community in facing the issue of refugees coming from Afghanistan,” he noted.

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