IRAN’S Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (right) greets Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (centre) on Sunday.—AFP
IRAN’S Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (right) greets Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (centre) on Sunday.—AFP

TEHRAN: Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday called for the formation of an “all-inclusive” Afghan government during a meeting with a Taliban delegation in Tehran, the ministry said.

A delegation from the movement headed by its co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar arrived in Iran on Tuesday to exchange “views on the peace process in Afghanistan” at the invitation of the ministry.

The visit comes as peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban resumed in early January in the Qatari capital Doha, meant to end a conflict spanning two decades.

“Political decisions cannot be made in a vacuum,” Zarif told the delegation, according to a ministry statement.

“The formation of an all-inclusive government must take place in a participatory process and by taking into account the fundamental structures, institutions and laws, such as the constitution,” he added.

He also welcomed the idea of forming an “all-inclusive government with the participation of all ethnic and political groups”.

Zarif expressed hope the Taliban would “focus efforts on an immediate end to the pains of Afghan people, so that the establishment of peace in Afghanistan would strip the outsiders of a pretext for occupation”.

Iran has previously called for the forces of its arch rival the United States to withdraw from Afghanistan, its eastern neighbour.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Friday urged the new US President Joe Biden to put pressure on the Taliban and not rush to withdraw more troops from Afghanistan.

His appeal came days after the Biden administration said it intends to reconsider a February 2020 agreement between former president Donald Trump and the Taliban.

The agreement includes the complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for the Taliban halting attacks on US forces, sharply decreasing the level of violence in the country and advancing peace talks with the government in Kabul.

Kabul is pushing for a permanent ceasefire and to protect governance arrangements in place since the ouster of the Taliban by a US-led invasion following the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in New York.

But violence has escalated across Afghanistan, with the Taliban refusing to make concessions.

Published in Dawn, February 1st, 2021

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