Persian Files ISSN 2975-0598 Volume 5 Issue 1
Author: Giuliano Bifolchi
On January 10th, 2022, the Foreign Affairs Minister of the Taliban interim Government Amir Khan Muttaqi said that he had met in Tehran with the head of the National Resistance Front Ahmad Massoud and the leader of the Herat militia Mohammad Ismail Khan.
The Afghan media agency Aamaj News reported that the meeting occurred during the Taliban delegation’s visit to Tehran. The Deputy Minister of Information and Culture of the Taliban interim Government Zabiullah Mujahid confirmed via Twitter the meeting where Muttaqi “assured Massoud and Khan that they can return to their homeland without facing any threat or security problems”. There is no news or statement from the National Resistance Front that confirms or denies the meeting.
According to the Taliban’s statements, the meeting was part of the visit that a Taliban delegation of 26 people paid to Iran to meet with local authorities. According to Muttaqi, who led the Taliban delegation, the parties discussed political, security, and trade issues with the Iranian authorities.
During the talks, Muttaqi stressed that Afghanistan is interested in establishing good relations with all countries in the region and added that Tehran could carry out trade transportation to Central Asia through the territory of Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian spoke about the need to unfreeze Afghanistan’s state reserves and promised that his country would continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people.
In the past days, there were rumours that the Afghan embassy in Tehran might be transferred under the control and management of the Taliban. The Iranian Foreign Affairs Ministry did not confirm this eventuality on this issue. However, it highlighted that “the diplomatic activities of the Afghan embassy in Tehran, like all foreign embassies, are carried out within the framework of the principles and rules defined by the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and no changes are allowed outside of it.”.
The Taliban diplomatic activities and desire to establish economic cooperation with neighbour countries and key actors in Central Asia explain the Kabul meeting between the Turkmen delegation headed by Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Vepa Khadzhiev and the Taliban leadership. According to the Turkmen Foreign Ministry, the parties discussed implementing joint projects, including constructing the TAPI gas pipeline, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) power transmission line (PTL) and the railway from Turkmenistan to some Afghan provinces.
Taliban meetings with Iranian and Turkmen representatives follow recent borders escalation, which alarmed the region about possible future escalations.
Iran-Taliban Relations: A Brief Overview
The relationship between the Taliban and the Islamic Republic of Iran has been complex and multifaceted over the years. While both entities share Islamic ideologies, their interactions have been influenced by strategic considerations, regional dynamics, and historical context.
Iran, as a predominantly Shia Muslim country, has had reservations about the Taliban due to their Sunni Islamist beliefs and past actions. However, Iran’s approach towards the Taliban has not been entirely consistent, and it has engaged with the group at times to protect its own interests.
Tehran’s initial stance towards the Taliban was largely antagonistic during the 1990s when the Taliban controlled Afghanistan. The Shia-Sunni divide and the Taliban’s harsh treatment of Shia minorities, including the Hazara community, contributed to Iran’s mistrust. Tehran also opposed the Taliban’s alliance with the United States’ regional rival, Pakistan.
However, following the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001 and the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, Iran sought to exert influence in its neighbouring country. This led to some limited cooperation with the Taliban, including providing support to certain factions for tactical purposes. Iran aimed to counter the growing American presence and foster ties with groups that could help shape Afghanistan’s future.
In recent years, as the Taliban regained strength and eventually took control of Afghanistan again, the dynamics of their relationship with Iran evolved once more. While Iran maintained some channels of communication with the Taliban, it continued to express concerns about the group’s ideologies and potential threats to regional stability. At the same time, Iran’s engagement with the Taliban can be seen as a pragmatic response to the changing regional landscape. As Afghanistan transitions into a new phase, the nature of the Taliban-Iran relationship remains a subject of international attention, with both regional stability and Iran’s interests at stake.
The meeting between the Foreign Affairs Minister of the Taliban interim Government, Amir Khan Muttaqi, and representatives from the National Resistance Front and the Herat militia in Tehran migh signify a preliminary step towards potential reconciliation and stabilisation in Afghanistan.
The fact that the meeting took place during a broader Taliban delegation visit to Iran underlines the group’s interest in fostering diplomatic ties with its neighboring countries. The discussions encompassed political, security, and trade matters, highlighting Afghanistan’s aspiration to cultivate relations and regional economic cooperation. This is further evident in the engagement with the Turkmen delegation, resulting in discussions about joint projects including the TAPI gas pipeline, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan power transmission line, and railway projects.
On the other hand, despite he reported meeting, there exists a certain level of uncertainty and ambiguity surrounding the actual occurrence and outcomes of the event. The National Resistance Front has not officially confirmed nor denied the meeting, leaving room for speculation and questions regarding the authenticity of the reported engagement.
Additionally, the lack of statements from the National Resistance Front adds to the confusion and lack of clarity about the true nature of the discussions. While the Taliban’s expressed intentions of fostering regional ties and economic cooperation are evident, the existing border escalations raise concerns about the potential for future conflicts, leaving regional stability in a precarious position. In the midst of this uncertainty, the diplomatic activities involving the Afghan embassy in Tehran and potential shifts in control also contribute to the complexity of the situation.
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