News ID: 236679
Published: 0538 GMT December 31, 2018

Iran says holds talks with Taliban in Tehran

Iran says holds talks with Taliban in Tehran

International Desk

Iran said Monday that the Afghan Taliban have visited Tehran for a second round of peace talks in just a few days aimed at bringing an end to 17 years of conflict.

Iran has made a more concerted and open push for peace in neighboring Afghanistan since US President Donald Trump indicated there would be a significant withdrawal of American troops.

"Yesterday (Sunday), a delegation of Taliban were in Tehran and lengthy negotiations were held with Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister (Abbas) Araqchi," said spokesman Bahram Qassemi at a televised news conference.

Qassemi said the talks were held with the knowledge of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

That came just days after Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, visited Kabul and told reporters that talks had been held with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

"The Islamic Republic has always been one of the primary pillars of stability in the region and cooperation between the two countries will certainly help in fixing Afghanistan's security issues of today," Shamkhani said.

There have been reports in the past of talks between Iran and the Taliban, but they have been denied by Tehran.

Qassemi said Iran's priority was "to help facilitate negotiations between Afghan groups and the country's government."

An American official told AFP on December 21 that US President Donald Trump had decided to pull out "roughly half" of the 14,000 US forces from Afghanistan, but the White House has yet to confirm the widely-publicized move.


'Peace development'

The Taliban also met with the United States, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in the United Arab Emirates earlier in December, but refused to meet a delegation from Afghanistan

Taliban sources said in December that they had also negotiated with the US officials over proposals for a six-month cease-fire in Afghanistan and a future withdrawal of foreign troops.

The Taliban say the presence of international forces in Afghanistan is the main obstacle to peace. Even as the peace process gathers momentum, fighting has continued with heavy casualties on both sides.

The developments come against a backdrop of near-daily attacks in Afghanistan, where the Taliban hold sway over nearly half the country. 

The Daesh terror group has been increasingly active in Afghanistan in recent years, clashing with both government and Taliban forces and alarming neighboring nations.

Araqchi will travel to Afghanistan in the next two weeks, Iran's Foreign Ministry said, without giving further details.

"Considering our long border with Afghanistan and the cultural and historical ties, and our important role in the region's stability, the Islamic Republic was interested... to enter and play a more important role in peace development in Afghanistan," Qassemi added.

Iran and Afghanistan share a 950-kilometer (580-mile) border, and have had a complex relationship in recent years.

Iran worked alongside the United States and Western powers to help drive out the Taliban after the US-led invasion in 2001.

In 1998, Iran held the Taliban responsible for the deaths of nine Iranian diplomats who were working in its consulate in northern Afghanistan and sent reinforcements to the long border that Iran and Afghanistan share.

Tehran welcomed Trump's announcement that he was withdrawing all US forces from Syria.

"The presence of American forces was from the very start, in principle, a wrong and illogical move and a primary cause of instability and insecurity in the region," Qassemi said on December 22.

AFP, Reuters and AP contributed to this story.


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