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Iran hosts high-level Afghan peace talks as fighting surges

This photo released by the Iranian Foreign Ministry, shows a meeting between two delegations from Taliban and government of Afghanistan hosting by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, July 7, 2021 (Iranian Foreign Ministry via AP)
This photo released by the Iranian Foreign Ministry, shows a meeting between two delegations from Taliban and government of Afghanistan hosting by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, July 7, 2021 (Iranian Foreign Ministry via AP)

Iran hosts the first significant talks in months between Taliban and Afghan government representatives, a surprise meeting that comes as the US completes its withdrawal from Afghanistan and districts fall to the Taliban across the country.

The high-level peace talks between the warring sides follow months-old discussions in Qatar that have been stalled by a diplomatic stalemate and escalating violence. Even as officials face each other across vast tables in Tehran and Iran’s top diplomat pledge to end the crisis, fighting surges in Afghanistan’s western Badghis province.

The Taliban political committee, led by chief negotiator Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, flew from Doha to Iran’s capital to meet Afghan government officials, including former Vice President Younus Qanooni and others from the High Council for National Reconciliation.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif greeted the delegates, urging them to “take difficult decisions today for the future of their country,” state-run media reports.

After the “failure of the US in Afghanistan,” Zarif said, Iran stands “ready to assist the dialogue” and to “resolve the current conflicts in the country.”

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