Zarif & Salahuddin Rabbani

Iran open to legal residence of Afghan refugees: FM

Tasnim– Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif voiced the country’s readiness for consultations with neighboring Afghanistan on procedures for legalizing the residency of Afghan refugees in Iran.

Speaking at a joint press conference with his Afghan counterpart in Kabul on Sunday, Zarif said Tehran is prepared for cooperation with Kabul on the status of millions of “Afghan guests” residing in Iran.

“We can promote cooperation in this area and prepare the ground for legalization of residency of the Afghan guests,” the Iranian diplomat added.

Zarif said Iran is glad to host 410,000 Afghan schoolchildren, 17,000 university students, and around 3 million Afghan nationals.

The Iranian minister further noted that the two Muslim neighbors can launch environmental cooperation and work on water resources.

Zarif also pointed to joint action against terrorism, violence, and narcotics trafficking as the other areas of cooperation between Iran and Afghanistan.

Heading a diplomatic delegation, Zarif arrived in Kabul on Sunday morning. His trip to Afghanistan comes a few days after a visit to the other eastern neighbor, Pakistan.

Iranian officials have always referred to security as a common need for Iran and its neighbors, especially in the Middle East region.

Tehran has also voiced its commitment to finding a lasting solution to the problems of Afghan refugees.

In 2014, UN resident coordinator in Iran Garry Lewis appreciated the measures adopted by the Islamic Republic in hosting foreign nationals, saying Iran is the world’s second biggest country accepting foreign refugees.

The high rate of Afghans living in cities is a sign that Iran has taken valuable measures for the refugees’ health and occupation, the UN envoy noted.

The UN representative said some 10,000 Afghan refugees return to their country from Iran each year, stressing that stability should prevail in Afghanistan so that more Afghans would return home of their own volition.

Iran has hosted Afghan refugees since the late 1970s following the occupation of their country by the Soviet Union troops. Although many of those refugees have returned to their country voluntarily, there are still hundreds of thousands of documented and undocumented Afghans in Iran.