Iranian and Taliban forces engage in shootout on border over water dispute

Iran says forces responded ‘decisively’ after Taliban fired at police station, doesn’t report casualties; Tehran urges Kabul to uphold 1973 water rights deal

File: A Taliban fighter stands guard at the entrance gate of Afghan-Iran border crossing bridge in Zaranj, February 18, 2022. (Wakil Kohsar/AFP)
File: A Taliban fighter stands guard at the entrance gate of Afghan-Iran border crossing bridge in Zaranj, February 18, 2022. (Wakil Kohsar/AFP)

TEHRAN, Iran — Clashes broke out Saturday between Iranian and Taliban forces at the border between the two countries, Iranian police said without reporting casualties, amid a water dispute between the two neighbors.

“Around 10 a.m. today, Taliban forces started shooting with all kinds of weapons at an Iranian police station from the Afghanistan side,” state news agency IRNA quoted the deputy head of the police force, Qassem Rezaee, as saying.

The official did not say if there were any casualties, while Tasnim news agency reported that “light and semi-light weapons and artillery were used in the clashes.”

Rezaee added that the Iranian forces responded “decisively” to the shooting which happened in Sistan-Baluchistan province.

He added that Iran’s police chief has ordered border guards to “bravely and resolutely defend the borders and not allow anyone to trespass or approach the borders.”

Even though Tehran and Kabul are bound by diplomatic relations, the Islamic Republic of Iran does not recognize Afghanistan’s Kabul government, and ties between the two have been recently tense over a water dispute.

Last week, Iran demanded that Afghanistan respect its “water rights,” charging that an upstream river dam there is restricting the flow into a lake that straddles their common border.

During a visit on May 18 to drought-parched southeastern Iran, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said: “I warn the rulers of Afghanistan to immediately give the people of Sistan-Baluchistan their water rights.”

The Helmand River flows from the mountains of the central Afghan province of the same name for more than 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) into Lake Hamoun, which straddles the Afghanistan-Iran border.

Afghanistan has blamed climatic factors for reduced river volumes.

Iran maintains that the country’s share was legally defined in a 1973 agreement between the two sides and demands that the Taliban uphold the deal, and last week it said Tehran “reserves” the right to take action to settle the dispute.

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