Iran on Wednesday hosted the first significant talks in months between the Taliban and Afghan government representatives — a previously unannounced meeting that comes as the U.S. completes its withdrawal from Afghanistan and districts increasingly fall to the Taliban across the country.
The high-level peace talks between the warring Afghan sides follow months-old discussions in Qatar that have been stalled by a diplomatic stalemate and escalating violence. Even as officials faced each other across the vast tables in Tehran and Iran’s top diplomat pledged to end the crisis, fighting surged in Afghanistan’s western Badghis province.
The Taliban political committee, led by chief negotiator Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, flew from Doha to Iran’s capital to meet Afghan government officials, including former Vice President Younus Qanooni and others from the High Council for National Reconciliation.Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif greeted the delegates, urging them to “take difficult decisions today for the future of their country,” state-run media reported.
After the “failure of the U.S. in Afghanistan,” Zarif said, Iran stands “ready to assist the dialogue” and to “resolve the current conflicts in the country.”
“Returning to the inter-Afghan negotiation table and committing to political solutions is the best choice,” he added. Later, Zarif tweeted the meeting had been “cordial” and promised Iran would stand with Afghans on their road to peace.