Iran Now Moves to Handover Afghan Embassy in Tehran to Taliban

Afghan embassy in Tehran, Iran.

Guess what? In the latest move, the Iranian government may plan to officially handover the Afghan Embassy in Tehran to the Taliban after months of back and forth on this issue.


Go deeper:

  • Officials of the Iranian foreign ministry said that serious discussions are taking place in this regard.
  • Previously, Taliban’s foreign ministry in a letter had stated that Mohammad Afzal Haqqani had been appointed as the ambassador to Iran. The letter noted that Haqqani, as the first secretary of the embassy, will be in charge of the diplomatic mission in Iran.
  • Then, Haqqani traveled from Tehran to Kabul and returned with his letter of appointment as head of the Afghan Embassy in Tehran. However, the Iranian Foreign Ministry had not accepted Haqqani as the new ambassador to Tehran.

Between the lines: Iran now joins a list of countries who have decided to accept Taliban diplomats at the embassies in their country.

  • However, the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said that the end of a diplomat’s mandate and the handover of the embassy’s affairs to another diplomat do not mean a change in the legal status of that embassy. He said at a press conference that there has been no change in how Iran interacts with the Taliban government.
  • The Afghan embassy in Tehran was currently headed by a former government diplomat.
  • The Taliban’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not officially commented on the incident.

Back story: Apart from Iran, Pakistan, China, Russia and Turkmenistan are countries who have officially accepted Taliban officials at their embassies.

  • In October 2021, the Taliban-appointed ‘diplomats’ have taken charge of the Afghan embassy and consulates in Pakistan. The first country to recognise the Taliban diplomats months after the Kabul takeover.
  • Sardar Muhammad Shokaib started working as the first secretary in the Afghan embassy in Islamabad and was effectively the Afghan Charge d’Affaires in Islamabad.
  • Hafiz Mohibullah, Mullah Ghulam Rasool and Mullah Muhammad Abbas had been assigned to the Peshawar, Quetta, and Karachi consulates of Afghanistan.
  • In April 2022, the Taliban established formal diplomatic ties with the Russian government. Jamal Garwal who was accredited in late March 2022 as Charge d’Affaires in Afghanistan Embassy in Moscow took charge and the Islamist group’s flag was hoisted inside the mission premises.
  • In April 2022, Turkmenistan too accepted a Taliban-appointed ambassador. Taliban-led ambassador Fazil Mohammad Saber took over the reign of the embassy there.
  • Similarly, China has allowed the Taliban to assume control of the Afghan embassy in Beijing.
  • Meanwhile, Turkey, which has a majority Muslim population, maintains an embassy in Kabul, but the Taliban have no diplomatic presence in Turkey. Ankara, though, remains involved in economic projects in Afghanistan.

Why it matters? The Taliban-run administration has neither internal legitimacy nor international recognition. So far, no single country in the world has recognized the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.

  • Iran may have been engaging with the Taliban and kept its embassy in Kabul open, but this move comes as a surprise as it has been urging the Taliban to form an inclusive government on numerous occasions.
  • Apart from this, it comes as a surprise because there have been frequent clashes along the border between the Taliban and Iranian border guards. And being led by Shia clerics, Iran ascribes to a brand of Islamic ideology that differs from the one embraced by the radical Sunni Taliban.

Zoom out: The Taliban has dispatched an envoy to the United Nations too, but the global body has since then declined to accept him. The diplomat, Suhail Shaheen, protested, saying Afghanistan’s seat should be held by “the current government in Afghanistan, which has sovereignty and writ all over the country.”

  • In other places, the Taliban are trying a less direct approach. Earlier in Italy, a pro-Taliban diplomat tried to enter the embassy, but was blocked by the ambassador, an appointee of the Afghan republic, in a confrontation that ended in a fist fight and intervention by the Italian police.
  • During the first Taliban rule in the 1990s, only three countries—Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates—recognized their government and diplomats as legitimate.
  • Now, one must remember that even though these countries have accredited the Taliban’s appointed diplomat in recent months, they all refuse to officially recognize the group’s government in Afghanistan.
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