October 12, 2020
The Taliban have said it is none of Iran’s business to advise the Afghans on their ongoing peace talks, after the Iranian foreign ministry questioned the US role in process.
As negotiations between the Kabul government and the Taliban are underway in Doha, Qatar to end decades of war, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Monday that the talks were a “historical scandal for the US,” which 19 years ago attacked and occupied parts of Afghanistan “in the name of confronting Taliban” but now “boasts of having negotiations with this very group.”
Intra-Afghan talks in Doha follow a historic peace deal signed by Washington and the Taliban in February.
“The Iranian government spokesman has no business to give advice from Iran to the Afghans about a framework for negotiations,” the Taliban said in an official response published on their Pashto-language website on Tuesday.
Besides criticizing the role of the US, Khatibzadeh’s said the talks should be held “within the framework” of Afghanistan’s constitution “while taking into account all the achievements made so far in the fields of rights of women, ethnicities and minorities.”
The Iranian spokesman’s remarks came following reports that Taliban negotiators insisted that decisions in intra-Afghan talks should be made within the Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence, one of the four main schools of Sunni legal reasoning, without provisions for the Shia community, which are made in the Afghan constitution.
While the Taliban acknowledged that there had been differences in the ongoing negotiations, they said that “neighbors have no right to speak in the tone of the Kabul regime. Afghans know how to decide a framework, constitution and principles for negotiations.”
“The issue of minority, majority, language, jurisprudence, law, framework and other issues are internal matters of Afghans and neighbors should desist from offering such remarks that apparently seems a show of cooperation but in fact tantamount to interference in internal affairs,” the group’s statement read.
The Iranian statement came as the Taliban, who were blamed for persecuting Shiites during their rule in Afghanistan in 1996-2001 and had killed eleven Iranians at Iran’s consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998, have despite the tensions over the past two decades established contact with Iran. Iran also invited a Taliban delegation several times to visit Tehran.
In June, Mohammad Ebrahim Taherian Fard, the special envoy of Iran’s foreign minister for Afghanistan, met with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the head of the Taliban political office in Doha.
While other Afghan officials were not immediately available for comment, foreign ministry spokesman Gran Hewad told Arab News on Saturday that the ministry “appreciates the principled stance of the Islamic Republic of Iran with regards to the peace process in Afghanistan.”
However, according to former Afghan government adviser Toreq Farhadi, Iran wants to “muddy the waters in Afghan peace talks.”
“During the talks, the constitution itself will be up for discussion between both sides of the conflict. As a matter of fact, the chairman of the Afghan National Reconciliation Council has already recognized this as a possibility,” Farhadi told Arab News, referring to Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan’s chief peace envoy for the Doha talks.
“The peace talks are a chance for all Afghans, including Taliban, to agree on a peaceful way forward. These comments from Iran at the outset of the talks are indeed an unwelcome interference on Afghan affairs,” he said.