Iran steps up Afghan diplomacy

November 9, 2021 - 21:10

TEHRAN – After a short lull in its Afghanistan diplomacy, Iran is once again putting more energy and time into its efforts to bring peace and stability to its easter neighbor, where the Taliban are now grappling with daunting challenges. 

On Monday, Tehran announced that Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, was planning to take part in the third regional security dialogue in India. 

The meeting is scheduled to be held on Wednesday in New Delhi. And Afghanistan is expected to be the main issue. In addition to Shamkhani, top security officials from Russia, India, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan will also participate in the meeting. Despite being invited by India, China and Pakistan will not take part in the security-oriented gathering. 

The New Delhi meeting is the third meeting of its kind. This regional format was established by Iran and its first and second meetings were held in Tehran in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Afghanistan was the focus of the regional security dialogue from the start. Before the Taliban takeover of Kabul in August, Afghan officials, including the then Afghan National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib, used to take part in the regional forum.

Of course, the Taliban have welcomed the meeting even before being held. Although the group said it will not take part in the New Delhi meeting, a deputy spokesman for the group has said the meeting would be in favor of Afghanistan. Enamullah Samangani, the group’s deputy spokesman, said in a video message that he considered the meeting to be in the interest of Afghanistan and the region.

He added that the Taliban were not worried about the meeting; Because the countries 
“The Taliban intend to attend the next meetings directly,” he said. 

Shamkhani’s trip to India came amid an increased Iranian activity with respect to Afghanistan. Iran hosted a meeting of the foreign ministers of countries bordering Afghanistan in late October. 

The foreign ministers of Iran, China, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, along with Russia, approved a ministerial joint statement at the end of the meeting 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.”

The Taliban 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.

The Iranian president’s special envoy to Afghanistan, Hassan Kazemi-Qomi, is planning to travel to Kabul in the first high-level Iranian visit to Afghanistan after the Taliban overran Kabul. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said the visit would take place soon but did not say exactly when.

In addition, Iranian Ambassador to Afghanistan Bahador Aminian has launched an extensive diplomatic campaign that included meetings with Afghan political figures and Taliban officials. 

On Tuesday, Aminian met with former Afghan President Hamid Karzai. During the meeting, Karzai thanked Iran for its humanitarian aid to the Afghan people and said, “Afghanistan should not face another war.”

Stating that the role of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Afghanistan is peace-seeking, he praised Iran's approach and called on the Islamic Republic to continue its efforts for lasting peace in Afghanistan.

Aminian also met with Abdullah Abdullah on Tuesday. The two sides discussed the need to form an inclusive government among other issues. 

Earlier, Aminian met with Taliban officials in Ghazni province. He said Iran is ready to cooperate to reconstruct and restore historical monuments in the province. 
Aminian made the offer after visiting Ghazni and meeting with Taliban officials in the province on Thursday.

The Iranian embassy in Kabul announced on Tuesday that the 11th shipment of Iranian humanitarian aids to Afghanistan was delivered to Afghan authorities in the Kabul airport.

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