KABUL: The Taliban’s foreign minister visited Iran on Saturday to discuss Afghan refugees and a growing economic crisis, in the first such trip to the neighbouring country since the hardline group seized power.
Iran has so far not recognised the new government formed by the Taliban after it took power amid a hasty withdrawal by US-led foreign forces in August.
“The visit aims at discussions on political, economic, transit and refugee issues between Afghanistan and Iran,” the Taliban foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Qahar Balkhi said on Twitter.
Iran is already hosting millions of Afghans and fearing a new influx has sought to sketch a rapprochement with the Taliban. The Taliban delegation led by Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi has already held a preliminary meeting with Iranian officials, he said.
Iran had not recognised the Islamist movement’s rule during their 1996 to 2001 stint in power. It is still to recognise the current government, insisting that the Taliban form an inclusive administration.
“Today, we are basically not at the point of recognising” the Taliban, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told a news conference earlier this week.
The Taliban have formed an all-male cabinet made up entirely of members of the group, and almost exclusively of ethnic Pashtuns. They have further restricted women’s rights to work and study, triggering widespread international condemnation.
On 1 December, clashes erupted between Iranian troops and Taliban forces near the Afghanistan-Iran border, but these were later described as a “misunderstanding”.
Iranian reformists, who have been critical of Tehran’s diplomatic engagement with the Taliban over the past few years, have criticised the hard-line government’s less than clear plans regarding the group.