Iranian top official rejects Taliban office in country
Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi rejected claims over Afghanistan Taliban militants having an office in the Islamic Republic.
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Abbas Araqchi made the remarks in an exclusive interview with Afghanistan’s Tolo news agency the summary of which was published by IRNA on Sunday, emphasizing, “The Taliban has no office in Iran.”
The Iranian diplomat added that the group “may have established a council” in the northeastern Iranian city of Mashhad, “but this does not concern us.”
Araqchi said Iran has been in contact with the Taliban over the past few years, noting, “As is the case with other (Afghan) groups, we have been in contact with them as well. We heard their opinions and expressed ours as well."
“Everyone knows who has created and supported the Taliban and who is holding negotiations and dealing with them right now,” the senior Iranian official said.
“It is a fact that the United States, which considers itself as Afghanistan’s ‘ally’, has negotiated with the Taliban and made a deal with them. We have no such relationship with the Taliban.”
Washington, Araqchi added, has held official talks with the Taliban in the absence of the Afghan government and made a deal on the country's future. "We have no such relationship with the Taliban."
The Taliban and the United States have been negotiating a peace deal to end a nearly two-decade war in Afghanistan for a year and were on the brink of an announcement in September 2019, when US President Donald Trump abruptly declared the process “dead.”
However, US special representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, who is leading negotiations with the Taliban, launched a new round of shuttle diplomacy by travelling to Pakistan and Afghanistan to brief officials on the status of the talks.
Islamabad has helped facilitate the talks in Qatar.
Talks restarted in Doha later in December last year, but were suspended again following an attack near the Bagram military base in Afghanistan, which is run by the US.
US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper had said on February 13 that the United States and the Taliban had negotiated a proposal for a seven-day reduction in violence, which could lead to an eventual withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.
"I'm here today consulting with allies about this proposal, and we've had a series of productive bilateral and collective meetings about the path forward," Esper said at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
“It will be a continual evaluative process as we go forward – if we go forward.”