Deputy FM: Iran not to forget Taliban’s past crimes

FNA – Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araqchi stressed that despite playing a mediatory role in peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, Tehran can never forget the killing of its diplomats by the group in Mazar-i Sharif in 1998.

Araqchi wrote on his twitter page on Sunday that during his current trip to Afghanistan to meet and confer with high-ranking Afghan officials to discuss the recent visit by a Taliban delegation to Tehran to hold talks and help the peace process in the war-torn country, he has also made a visit to Iran’s consulate in Mazar-i Sharif where the Iranian diplomats were martyred by the Taliban in 1998.

He underlined that Iran feels a heavy responsibility on its shoulder with regard to the blood of its martyrs, and added, “We look to the future but will never forget the past.”

The 1998 killing of the Iranian diplomats in Afghanistan refers to the siege of the Iranian consulate in Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan, during the Taliban and Northern Alliance battles of Mazar-e Sharif. Initially the death of 8 Iranian diplomats was reported, but later two other diplomats and a journalist were also confirmed dead.

On August 8, 1998 Taliban forces captured Mazar-i-Sharif. After this incident, 11 Iranian diplomats and a correspondent from Iran’s state news agency (IRNA) were attacked at the Iranian consulate and subsequently disappeared.

Unofficial reports from the city indicated that all these men were killed. Later it was confirmed that 8 of the Iranian diplomats and the IRNA correspondent were killed by the Taliban militia attacking the consulate.

The Taliban spokesmen said the Iranians had been killed by renegade forces who had acted without orders. It was also reported that some of the personnel of the consulate were taken hostage by the Taliban, but they were later released.

During his visit to Kabul, Araqchi announced on Saturday that his country was committed to the continued peace process in Afghanistan with the country’s government taking the lead.

Araqchi made the remarks in a meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul on Saturday.

He also presented a report on the recent meeting between the Iranian officials and the Taliban in Tehran.

During the meeting, the two sides underlined the importance of developing all-out ties between the two countries, emphasizing Tehran and Kabul’s full coordination in all aspects to attain better results.

Last Monday, Iran confirmed talks with the Taliban to help the peace process, but meantime, stressed that negotiations with the Afghan group did not mean shared views or stances.

“A delegation from the Taliban was in Tehran yesterday and extensive talks were held at the foreign ministry with Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs (Seyed Abbas) Araqchi,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi told reporters in Tehran on Monday.

“The main goal of the negotiations is finding a solution and grounds to facilitate assistance to the talks between the Afghan groups and the government of this country to help the peace process in Afghanistan,” he added.

Qassemi underlined that talks with the Taliban “do not necessarily mean that Iran’s positions are similar to those of the group”, and expressed the hope that negotiations could yield results for the Afghan nation and establish security and stability in the country.

He also emphasized that the Afghan government was informed of Iran’s talks with the Taliban, and added, “We are not the only country which has held talks with the Taliban and many other states also have interactions with them.”

His remarks came as the Pentagon acknowledged in December Iran’s key role in restoring peace and stability to war-torn Afghanistan, backtracking on Washington’s earlier claims that Tehran supports the local Taliban militant group.

“Iran seeks a stable Afghan government that is responsive to Iranian goals, the elimination of ISIS-K, the removal of the US/NATO presence, and the protection of Iranian concerns, such as water rights and border security,” the US Department of Defense said in a report sent to Congress.

The Pentagon also admitted Iran’s influence in Afghanistan, saying that Tehran pursues “a multitrack strategy” of engaging with the Afghan government and seeks to boost bilateral economic ties with Kabul.