Tehran Intra-Afghan Meeting, Iran’s Strategy for Peace in Afghanistan

2021/07/17 | interview, political, top news

Strategic Council Online – Assistant to Minister and Director General of West Asia at Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stating that the meeting of intra-Afghan groups in Tehran had a special success, added: The Taliban, with its past experience, realizes that it cannot necessarily achieve international legitimacy by military force; rather, international legitimacy is achieved through political negotiations.

Seyed Rasoul Mousavi, speaking in an interview with the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, stated that holding of the intra-Afghan meeting in Tehran was not a sudden issue and has a long history: 1995, when the current Afghan Foreign Minister, Hanif Atmar, was the country’s national security adviser, he traveled to Tehran and asked Iran for help in negotiating with the Taliban.

He added: At that time, at the request of the Afghan side, Iran established contacts with the Taliban and they agreed to peace talks. Mr. Shamkhani then traveled to Kabul, where he held talks with Mr. Hamdullah Moheb, the then Afghanistan’s national security adviser, and conveyed the Taliban’s readiness to hold talks. During that trip, the Afghan government was supposed to inform us of its decision to hold talks, but unfortunately it was not followed up.

US history in preventing formation of intra-Afghan talks

The senior diplomat said: Based on the information we have, the United States prevented formation of the intra-Afghan talks; at that time, the Americans had a different view of the Afghan reality scene, and in the strategic alliance with the Afghan government, they thought they had ruled over Afghanistan and would not allow the Afghan government to do anything that was against their interests.

Saying that at that time, the United States considered the peace talks between the Taliban and the government to be to its detriment, he noted: This was while Iran wanted to help both sides with the talks.

Mousavi reminded: Therefore, the idea of ​​intra-Afghan talks is not a new idea and it is based on the will of the Afghan side; but unfortunately, the Americans prevented formation of the negotiations in those years with their measures. If negotiations had taken place at that time, we would not have witnessed so much killing and violence. At the same time, the level of demands of the Taliban at that time was more limited than today, and unfortunately, the opportunity that had arisen was lost.

As for the prospects of the intra-Afghan talks in Tehran, despite the complexities of the current situation in Afghanistan, he clarified: Regarding the situation in Afghanistan, several trends have been proposed; the Americans are advancing the Doha process, and the Moscow process is in the form of 3+1. An initiative was supposed to be formed in Istanbul, but it did not materialize. The United Nations has another initiative in the form of 6+2 that does not have a clear destiny.

“Tehran Initiative” and unsuccessful US peace plan to resolve Afghan crisis

Apart from the Tehran initiative, Mousavi described the US plan as the most important plan currently in place to pursue peace in Afghanistan, and said: What we see in the US plan is that the current situation in Afghanistan stems from implementation of the US plan. They did not seek peace; rather, regardless of what might happen in Afghanistan, they just wanted to get out of war!

The Secretary General of South Asia of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stressed that Iran has always stated that withdrawal of the occupiers from Afghanistan should be responsible and should not create a sudden power vacuum, adding: structures had to be created that can maintain security. In addition, they were to form intra-Afghan dialogue that would resolve the situation peacefully, along with the structures created.

He added: But the Americans and the occupiers ignored those issues and as a result, the current situation in Afghanistan was created. In such a situation, an initiative called the “Tehran Initiative” was proposed and, according to its history, became operational.

Special success of Tehran meeting

Mousavi referred to the 6-article statement of the Tehran Intra-Afghan meeting and emphasized: The Taliban and the representatives of the republic gathered in Tehran and came to the conclusion that war is not the solution and a political solution must be found. Together, they condemned violence and attacks on homes, public places, hospitals and mosques, and concluded that they needed to find a solution in a more general and comprehensive consultation for the future of Afghanistan’s political system. All this confirm the fact that the Tehran meeting was a special success.

He reminded: Of course, in the published document, they announced that they are going to hold the talks again in Tehran after consulting with people at high levels; therefore, we do not see the Tehran meeting as a finished meeting, but a process that can solve Afghanistan’s problems if maintained.

New civil war must be prevented

Stating that Afghanistan has very complex problems and it is not clear how they will solve them, the senior Iranian diplomat stressed the importance of the situation in Afghanistan for Iran and said: In any case, what is important for us as Afghanistan’s neighbor, is peace and tranquility in that country. Security, peace and tranquility in Afghanistan directly affect our national security, and we must work to prevent shaping of a new civil war in that country and play our role for its peace, stability and tranquility.

Clarifying some analysis of the Taliban trying to gain concessions from the United States with each trip to Tehran and expressing doubts about the outcome of the talks, Mousavi said: Those who raise such issues should consider what can be done in this situation? Some people expect that now that the United States has left Afghanistan, Iran, for example, will enter Afghanistan to defend some people! While this is not the right path. Those who criticize everything, what option do they have? If peace meetings are thought to be ineffective, then what should be done? Should it be fought?! War is definitely not the solution.

He added: Holding a meeting and emphasizing that war is not the solution and that it should only be achieved through political means is a success. Certainly a 40-year war cannot be resolved with a one-day meeting.

Taliban having “recognition” problem

Regarding the Taliban’s motivation to continue talks in Tehran, despite the progress and military action it is pursuing in Afghanistan, Mousavi said: In any case, we should be hopeful. The Taliban have no problem with military power and can capture many cities and possibly enter Kabul, but the issue of the Taliban is a matter of “identification”.

He explained: Between 1975 and 1980, the Taliban took control of more than 95% of Afghanistan, but it was not identified. Only three countries – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan – have identified the Taliban; so this time, the experienced Taliban from the past realizes that it can seize geography and cities by military force, but not necessarily the international legitimacy.

Mousavi stressed: International legitimacy comes from political negotiations. Whether the talks are in Tehran or in Moscow or anywhere else; in any case, peace and tranquility will be established in Afghanistan by reaching a political agreement. The Taliban also know that the years-long conflict must finally end through a political solution. It would be better if the opportunity for Tehran talks is used today, otherwise they will have to resort to talks again after a while. All wars must end through political negotiations.

The senior political, commenting on the possibility of ending the war and conflict in the context of intra-Afghan negotiations, said: Until the ceasefire is declared, the war will continue. To declare a ceasefire, the two sides must agree on principles. What was being discussed in Tehran so far was that they agreed to talk to each other to reach those principles. This decision is a big step.

Afghan government border responsibility

In another part of his interview, Mousavi talked about the spread of internal conflicts in Afghanistan to the border with Iran and raising Iran’s concerns about border security with Afghan officials and said: We did not enter into discussions at the Tehran meeting and only prepared space for the parties to talk to each other, but we have red lines about our national security that we have always raised on various occasions.

He stressed: We hold the Afghan government responsible for border security issues, and if anything happens at the border, it must be resolved through local and regional mechanisms and in accordance with international principles and law.

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