“Peace talks should be intra-Afghan. Iran, as a neighbor, is ready to do its utmost in this regard,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told a weekly briefing in Tehran.
Khatibzadeh urged all regional actors and Afghanistan's neighbors to play a “helpful role” in establishing peace in Afghanistan and avoid dictating peace initiatives.
The spokesman said Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has recently talked with his Afghan counterpart Mohammad Hanif Atmar and President Ashraf Ghani about the peace process in Afghanistan.
“Over the past 20 years, our policy has been for Afghan groups enter into dialogue with the Afghan government,” Khatibzadeh pointed out.
More than 20 countries, including Iran and Afghanistan’s other neighbors, have been invited to a peace summit for Afghanistan due to be held in the Turkish city of Istanbul from April 24 to May 4.
Khatibzadeh said Iran’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Mohammad Ebrahim Taherian held talks with chairman of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah on Monday over various issues including the Istanbul summit on Afghanistan's future.
The spokesman said Iran has not yet decided whether to take part in the meeting and is “carefully considering” it.
“If the talks in Istanbul are in line with our principles, we will consider our attendance,” he said.
US President Joe Biden announced Wednesday it's "time to end" America's longest war with the unconditional withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, where they have spent two decades in a bloody, increasingly futile battle against the Taliban.
The US military invaded in Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks against the United States.
Now, 20 years later – after almost 2,400 US military and tens of thousands of Afghan deaths – Biden named September 11 as the deadline by which the last US soldiers will have finally departed. The pullout will begin on May 1, Reuters wrote.
There is a US-led NATO force of about 9,600, with some 2,500 of those soldiers American. NATO announced that the withdrawal would be "orderly, coordinated and deliberate”.
The Taliban militant group has said it will not attend the Istanbul summit until all foreign forces leave the country.
"Until all foreign forces completely withdraw from our homeland, (we) will not participate in any conference that shall make decisions about Afghanistan," tweeted Mohammad Naeem, spokesman for the Taliban office in Qatar.
Under a February 2020 deal between the Taliban and the administration of former US president Donald Trump, Washington vowed to withdraw all the US troops remaining in Afghanistan. In return, the Taliban pledged to stop attacks on US troops.
Talks with Saudi Arabia
Elsewhere in his remarks, Khatibzadeh said Iran has "always welcomed" talks with Saudi Arabia, without confirming or denying media reports that the two held direct talks earlier this month.
"We too have seen these published media reports," he said.
"Of course, different quotes were published in these often contradictory reports," he added, saying that Iran does not comment on "contradictory media reports".
The Financial Times said Sunday that senior Iranian and Saudi officials had held talks in Baghdad on April 9 to repair relations and were due to hold another meeting soon, quoting unnamed sources, AFP wrote.
According to the FT, the talks included discussions about Yemen's Houthis and "were positive".
"What matters is that Iran has always welcomed talks with the Saudi kingdom and considers this beneficial to the people of both countries and regional peace and stability," Khatibzadeh said.
He added that "this thinking will continue," without elaborating further.
According to the FT, the talks were facilitated by Iraq's Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.
Riyadh has not officially commented on the report, while the Saudi English-language Arab News daily quoted an unnamed Saudi official as denying the talks.