Text of the Speech by Iranian Foreign Minister at 2nd Meeting of Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan’s Neighboring Countries-27/10/2021
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
I’d like to bid welcome to all honorable foreign ministers and senior envoys of Afghanistan’s neighboring countries in Tehran, and I hope this meeting will serve to realize all participating countries’ will to play a constructive role in ensuring the interests of Afghan people and the region.
This meeting is the second round of an initiative whose first meeting was held online by our dear brother, Pakistan.
Countries’ intentions and will were well reflected in a statement issued at the meeting, and I hope we will be able to present, in the Tehran meeting, a clearer picture of realities in Afghanistan and expectations of its neighboring countries, which are affected most by developments in that country, and to draw up a road map for future steps.
The crisis which has worried all of us today is the legacy of unwarranted interference by bullying powers in our region.
The United States attacked Afghanistan twenty years ago under the pretext of fighting terrorism, and perpetuated and regenerated instability, war and insecurity in that country by maintaining its military presence there. Without promoting and empowering Afghanistan and its people, Washington tactlessly and irresponsibly fled the scene and created the situation that all of us are facing today.
We as Afghanistan’s neighboring countries, each of which is linked to this geography and its people one way or another and at whatever level, are well aware of the importance of a lack of consensus in Afghanistan and in the region surrounding it as well as within the international system as one of the root causes of the prolongation of the ongoing crisis in that country. In Afghanistan, we are facing a situation which has yet to reach a point that would be acceptable for people of Afghanistan from all ethnicities and groups. At the level of the international system, too, we are seeing disparate and contradictory approaches which do not befit Afghanistan and the region. Therefore, we are witnessing more discord and conflicts than consensus both inside Afghanistan and at the international level.
On the other hand, the approaches adopted by Afghanistan’s neighboring countries have, so far, been convergent and progressive to a great extent as they have a deep understanding of the situation in Afghanistan, and there is relative consensus on fundamental issues. In this meeting, we should focus our efforts on boosting the consensus which has emerged.
If Afghanistan’s neighboring countries maintain and reinforce their consensus, they will be able to play a constructive role in bringing about convergence both among political as well as ethnic groups inside Afghanistan and at the international level, and contribute to crisis management in the country. One of the items on the agenda of the Tehran meeting is to achieve this objective. It goes without saying that if this consensus is undermined or disrupted, it will only result in the prolongation of chaos and this long-running crisis, which has bothered the people of Afghanistan and regional countries for more than four decades.
Reviewing the history of Afghanistan and the political life of its people bears testimony to the historical fact that Afghanistan is a land of interaction and cooperation among different groups, and whenever this interaction and collaboration has been overlooked, Afghanistan’s peace, stability and tranquility have come under threat. Historical experiences indicate that no mechanism will last in Afghanistan without paying due regard to social and ethnic considerations and nuances. This experience is a necessity paying attention to which would guarantee the establishment of stability and political continuity, and disregard for which would be a precursor to the emergence of intra-Afghan conflicts. Incontrovertibly, if Afghanistan is dragged into a new round of civil wars, it will not be in the interest of any of Afghanistan’s neighboring countries. Afghanistan is suffering from economic and social underdevelopment. Poor economy, low per capita income, the high rate of illiteracy and a lack of job skills are factors which impel individuals to join gangs and terrorist groups. This, coupled with a weak nationwide rule unable to ensure security in the country, is among the most important factors pushing different terror groups to enter and develop their operational cells in Afghanistan.
In recent months, we have seen terrorist groups, particularly the ISIS, expanding their activities in Afghanistan. Brutal terror attacks by this group on religious congregations, including raids on Muslim mosques, namely in Kunduz and Qandahar, are cases of behavior bothering the people of Afghanistan and the world public opinion under the name of Islam and in a different guise.
In recent weeks, it dawned on us that this group has gained ground and operational capability in Afghanistan, and that even the Taliban has failed to prevent this group from conducting operations in different towns and cities. Perpetual underdevelopment in Afghanistan will only lead to gangs and terrorist groups continuing to recruit operatives from among Afghan people, which, in turn, will see terrorism and crime spill over across the country, Afghanistan’s neighboring countries and the whole South and Central Asian regions.
Under the current circumstances, one of the objectives of this meeting is to review the existing concerns over the situation in Afghanistan as well as holding consultations with regional friends on finding ways out of the current fragile situation. Accordingly, I, on behalf of the Islamic Republic of Iran, will put forward proposals and hope this meeting will be an opportunity to go beyond delivering merely political speeches and turn into a forum to propose and discuss practical ways of multifaceted cooperation among Afghanistan’s neighboring countries in order to allay the sufferings of people and stave off threats originating from Afghanistan.
First, the situation and balance of power in Afghanistan have undergone change, but this change will stabilize and remain in place only when social requirements in Afghanistan are understood and action is taken accordingly. Therefore, the Islamic Republic of Iran emphasizes the necessity of the establishment of an all-inclusive government with the presence as well as effective and lasting participation of all ethnic and religious groups in Afghanistan via supported intra-Afghan talks without the interference of foreign players.
Afghanistan’s neighboring countries are expected to utilize all the influence they have on Taliban leaders and other Afghan parties in a bid to promote rapport and collective participation in the establishment of the government, and to facilitate this trend.
Second, the Taliban, as the ruling elite in Afghanistan, has undeniable responsibilities in ensuring security, fighting terrorism, respecting the rights of different groups, including women, providing basic necessities of life for Afghan citizens, stopping the violation of ethnic and religious minorities’ rights, eliminating the root causes of displacement and homelessness, and respecting the fundamental and recognized principles of international law. The Taliban should fulfill those responsibilities.
Third, it is essential that the Taliban adopt a cordial approach toward Afghanistan’s neighboring countries and take the necessary measures to make sure that neighboring countries will face no threats from the Afghan territory.
Fourth, Afghan people need immediate humanitarian aid, including food, medicines and vaccines in order to tackle the COVID-19 virus. A well-organized mechanism is required to make sure that aid is fairly distributed among people.
Given the shortage of time and the urgency of the action to be taken, the Islamic Republic of Iran proposes that “The ECO Program on Support for Afghanistan” be activated.
Fifth, in order to fight organized crime and acts of terror originating from Afghanistan, it is proposed that regional countries devise a security and intelligence mechanism where they would, more seriously and at shorter intervals, exchange information and make coordination among themselves, including Afghanistan’s neighbors.
Sixth, given all-inclusiveness of the UN umbrella, the Islamic Republic of Iran proposes that the UN secretary general be asked to use his good offices and, if necessary, mediate between Afghan sides to reach an agreement on the future political makeup in that country.
Once again, I welcome all honorable foreign ministers and senior envoys of Afghanistan’s neighboring countries in Tehran, and I hope we will be able to take effective steps to help Afghanistan and alleviate the sufferings of the oppressed people of that country.