By Manal Ahmed | Political Editor
Senior representatives of Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries gathered in Tehran for a one-day conference to discuss coordinating responses to the recent political shift in the war-torn country. The talks were a continuation of previous discussions held online in early September, said a spokesperson of Iran’s foreign ministry.
The foreign ministers of four neighbouring countries – Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan – met in-person, joined by the representatives of China and Russia through video link. Newly elected Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi was unable to attend due to a cyberattack that targeted Iran’s online petrol distribution software, which occurred the day before. He was represented by the First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber.
Mokhber stated Iran’s intention was to support the formation of an inclusive government by the Taliban, and “help shape a future of peace and security in Afghanistan”. During the conference, Mokhber expressed that despite the United States’ “defeat” in the country, the US would continue attempting to advance “destructive” policies regionally.
The first vice president believes this to be through ISIS, which he referred to as “US proxy forces in the region”. The terrorist group is claiming to have caused multiple explosions across the country, and many neighbours fear this may lead to a civil war.
Iran had previously criticised the Taliban for failing to include ethnic minorities in the cabinet that is largely made up of ethnic Pashtuns and condemned the group for attacking guerrilla fighters in the Panjshir Valley, where resistance against the Taliban remained active until last month.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres later joined, via video, and stated that the crisis in Afghanistan was one of “epic” proportions and demanded immediate worldwide relief. Currently, the UN is in contact with Taliban leaders to ensure delivery of humanitarian supplies, however issues of violating human rights and acts of violence have left Guterres concerned. He implored for a joint resolution to be made in combating the instability.
During the conference, Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov called on Afghanistan’s neighbours to refuse hosting US or NATO military forces “which plan to move there after leaving Afghan territory”. Lavrov stated the importance of attending nations controlling migration from the Taliban-led state in order to prevent militants disguised as refugees from entering, a concern that Pakistan shares.
Since the takeover, Russian President Vladimir Putin significantly increased the military presence in their largest foreign military base in Tajikistan, and allowed the US to use Russian military bases in Central Asia. However, Moscow remains tense at the possibility of Washington maintaining a long-term presence in the region if the volatile situation expands beyond Afghanistan’s borders.
The Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi indicated his desire to continue talks and host the next meeting between the seven ministers. Yi stated that in a meeting with top Taliban officials in Doha, Qatar, the Taliban had expressed a great commitment to “dialogue and cooperation” with the international community.
While Iran has taken on a leading role in discussions to support the stability of their neighbours, they refuse to engage in any crisis talks with the United States, believing them to be the cause of the current state of instability in Afghanistan. Yi and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian called on the US to lift sanctions on Afghanistan, as the state’s failing economy needs aid and 90 percent of the population are at risk of falling below the poverty line if the situation remains as it is.
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