ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has welcomed efforts by Iran to engage with the Taliban and the Afghan government in search of a negotiated political settlement in the country.
“Pakistan welcomes Iran’s engagement with Afghan parties to achieve a negotiated political settlement,” said Foreign Office Spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri in a statement.
He said that Pakistan views Iran as an important country in the Afghan peace process. “Iran, like Pakistan, is a neighbouring country of Afghanistan and host to millions of Afghan refugees,” he noted.
He expressed the hope that the Afghan parties would make use of the opportunity to “achieve an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement”.
The Taliban reportedly met with representatives of the Afghan government in Tehran on Wednesday. This was confirmed by the Iranian foreign ministry as fighting rages.
Opening the Tehran talks, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif welcomed the departure of its US enemy forces from its eastern borders but warned: “Today the people and political leaders of Afghanistan must make difficult decisions for the future of their country,” he said.
Leading negotiator Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai headed the Taliban delegation while former vice president Younus Qanooni represented the government, the Iranian ministry said.
Zarif hailed the “defeat” of US troops after two decades of war that had caused “extensive damage” but warned of the “unfavourable results of continuing the conflict in Afghanistan”.
Zarif appealed to the warring parties in Afghanistan to return to the negotiating table, calling “commitment to political solutions the best choice for Afghanistan’s leaders and political movements”.
“We are proud to have stood alongside our noble Afghan brothers and sisters during the jihad against the foreign occupiers,” he added, in a video excerpt of his speech released by the ministry.
Iran hosts several million Afghan refugees and migrant workers and is deeply concerned about the intensifying turmoil in the neighbouring country.