Iran May Again Host Peace Meet For Afghanistan

Kabul: Iran is planning to host a meeting between the Afghan government and other Afghan groups to bring peace to war-torn Afghanistan, as per reports of Fars News. The Iranian news agency did not mention if the Taliban will take part in the Tehran peace talks but it said all Afghanistan’s “internal groups” will be present in the meeting, implying that a delegation from the Taliban may participate in the meeting. It also did not set any date for the talks, but said they will take place “soon.”

According to Fars News, these days Iran is trying to ensure peace, stability and lasting security for the people of Afghanistan by holding dialogue sessions and interaction between the groups and the government, while denying violence and focusing on a political solution. Iran’s initiative in holding this meeting can save the people of Afghanistan from the current crisis to a great extent, it added.

The meeting will be hosted by an Iranian organization called “Global Forum of Islamic Awakening” and will be held virtually. Iran has recently played host to Afghan peace talks for the second time. In early July, delegations from the Afghan government and the Taliban descended on Tehran to discuss ways to achieve peace in the midst of U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who led the talks, urged both sides to show courage in making peace.

The Iranian foreign minister added, “What I ask you is that use this opportunity and end the war in Afghanistan as soon as possible, and provide the Afghan people with the chance to develop.” He also voiced Iran’s readiness to facilitate peace talks. “The Islamic Republic of Iran is always ready to facilitate your talks in any way you prefer,” he pointed out. In fact, Rasoul Mousavi, Director-General of West Asia Department in Foreign Ministry said on Sunday that Afghanistan has no way out but dialog, understanding, compromise, forgiveness, closing eyes to the past and looking into the future. In a tweet he wrote that he just returned home from Kabul, Afghanistan and expressed concern about what was happening to the Afghanistan flag. “Opportunities pass like clouds. The opportunity of peace must be taken today, not tomorrow, as it might be late,” he added. Mousavi travelled to Kabul in recent days to meet several senior officials of Afghanistan, including Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah.

This comes even as a senior delegation of the Afghan government and Taliban representatives have met in Doha for high-stakes negotiations as violence escalates on the ground in Afghanistan on Saturday. The two sides have been meeting on and off for months in the Qatari capital but the talks have lost momentum as a string of battlefield gains by the Taliban has coincided with foreign forces finalizing their withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, as per Afghan president’s special envoy for Pakistan Omar Daudzai, a part of the Pakistani establishment may favor return of Taliban’s Islamic Emirate. In an interview with 1TV, Daudzai said that Pakistan should be convinced by the international community and Afghanistan that an inclusive political settlement would benefit both the countries.

He said that Pakistan has invited 31 politicians including government officials and party leaders to a conference in Islamabad. The three-day conference was originally scheduled to begin on July 17, but it has been postponed to after Eid which is expected next week. Daudzai suggested that the conference was postponed to upon request by the Afghan side, so that it could be held with a more proper coordination between foreign ministries of the two countries.

However, Pakistan Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said that peace cannot be established in Afghanistan unless all warring factions sit together. “Durable peace in Afghanistan was an imperative economic progress for the whole region,” the minister said while talking to media.

The minister said categorically that Pakistan will not interfere inside Afghanistan but will play a role for restoration of peace. In other news, Pakistan Director General Inter-Services Public Relations Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar, speaking of the Afghan border, said that “all illegal crossing points have been sealed” and that deployment of troops to notified points has been ramped up. He said that the Pakistan Army is “keeping a close eye” on the situation in the region and is “playing its role with utmost seriousness” for the successful outcome of the Afghan peace process.

Meanwhile, the hurried US and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan has sparked concerns in Moscow over the security of its Central Asian allies amid the Taliban’s continued advance. All of Afghanistan’s neighbors, including Russia’s Tajik partners, have beefed up border security in a bid to stop violence and instability from spilling over into their nations. Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden discussed the possibility of exchanging information on the conflict in Afghanistan at their June 16 summit meeting in Geneva, the Russian newspaper Kommersant reports, citing sources said to be familiar with the situation.

The discussions are said to have included a proposal by Putin to use Russian bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, possibly to provide the US with information obtained through the use of drones. The US “hasn’t given a clear answer for now”, according to one source. Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov on Saturday confirmed to RBC that the situation in Afghanistan was on the agenda of the June summit, but did not comment on whether the discussions included talks about Russia’s Central Asian bases. Russia has a major military presence in Tajikistan, which is one of Afghanistan’s northern neighbors. Moscow’s Collective Security Treaty Organization ally hosts the 201st Military Base in Dushanbe.

Also, US NSC Spokesperson Emily Horne stated that a Senior Administration Delegation’s Trip to Uzbekistan was joined by US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and US Ambassador to Uzbekistan Daniel Rosenblum in Tashkent after the international conference. The delegation met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Afghan Foreign Minister Haneef Atmar to discuss the evolving security situation in Afghanistan. US support for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, and US diplomatic support for a negotiated political settlement to the conflict was discussed. The delegation also met with Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar to discuss regional security for Afghanistan and counterterrorism cooperation.

In fact, Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada in his Eid message said, “We are celebrating this Eid at a time when majority of American and other foreign forces have evacuated our country and the remaining are following suit. In spite of the military gains and advances, the Taliban favors a political settlement in the country, and every opportunity for the establishment of an Islamic system, peace and security that presents itself will be made use of by the group. Our message remains that instead of relying on foreigners, let us resolve our issues among ourselves and rescue our homeland from the prevailing crisis.” He added that the group fully assures neighboring, regional and world countries that Afghanistan will not permit anyone to pose a security threat to any other country using our soil.

The Taliban leader has said the group has opened a political office “for good progress in negotiations and the political process,” obliges the negotiating team and is “committed” to resolving issues through dialogue.

This comes even as the negotiating delegations of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban in Qatar are trying to agree on the establishment of three working groups to discuss three specific issues. Sources familiar with the Doha meeting told the Etilaat roz daily that the three working groups are set to work on three issues simultaneously. The “future constitution, confidence-building and political roadmap” are the three topics discussed in the working groups.

According to these sources, the release of Taliban prisoners and the removal of Taliban leaders from the UN blacklist is in the section on “confidence building” and the establishment of a transitional government are part of the “political roadmap”. The source adds, “They are trying to agree on an agenda of three clear, fresh, effective and fast-track articles, and at the same time, the creation of three negotiating groups. These three groups will start working simultaneously.”

According to sources, the bilateral delegations, consisting of seven people from both sides, have completed their second meeting behind closed doors, and the third meeting was scheduled for Sunday afternoon. Abdullah Abdullah, Karim Khalili, Atta Mohammad Noor, Masoom Stanekzai, Fatema Gilani and Bator Dostum on behalf of the Afghan government and Abdul Ghani Baradar, Shahabuddin Delawar, Abdul Salam Hanafi, Mullah Din Mohammad, Mawlana Farid, Mullah Fazel and Sheikh Abdul Hakim Haqqani on behalf of the Taliban were present in the meeting.

Sources also that Majid al-Qahtani, Qatar’s special envoy for the peace in Afghanistan, was present as a mediator and facilitator.

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