EghtesadOnline: Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Abbas Araqchi, who is in Kabul for top-level consultations, said the Iran-Afghanistan strategic plan will be finalized soon.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of his visit on Saturday, Araqchi said the plan consists of five sections, four of which have already been concluded and the fifth one on security cooperation will be finalized soon.
“The comprehensive strategic document outlines the prospects of long-term relations between Iran and Afghanistan and defines its principles, and plays a major role in reinforcing these ties,” he was quoted as saying by ISNA.
The deputy minister expressed hope that his current consultations in Kabul will be the last round of negotiations on the document, as it has made good progress.
“Once finalized, the document will be signed by the presidents of the two countries,” he said, adding that it will help chart the course of Tehran-Kabul relations in the future.
According to Araqchi, the cooperation plan has been devised in a way that both nations feel their demands are met and their interests are served in a win-win situation.
He said the document will not be signed as long as one party is not satisfied.
“We are now at a point where both sides are satisfied,” he said.
The document was prepared around five years ago and covers five areas, namely economic, cultural, defense-security, citizens and water.
Shared Interests and Concerns
Araqchi emphasized the importance of close consultations between Tehran and Kabul, in view of the two neighboring countries’ shared interests and concerns.
He reiterated that Iran has always stood by Afghans when they grappled with multiple issues.
“Peace and stability in Afghanistan are tantamount to peace and stability in Iran and the Afghan people’s progress and welfare directly affect the progress of Iranian people,” he said. “This is a strategic reality.”
The diplomat stressed that most problems in Afghanistan originate from other countries, but none has been from the side of Iran.
Afghanistan has been engaged in a war since 2001 when the United States toppled the Taliban from power. The group has continued its insurgency by fighting the central government ever since.
The US finally reached a deal with the Taliban in February and brokered peace talks in Doha, Qatar, between the negotiators of the Kabul government and insurgents.
Iran has emphasized that only negotiations guided and owned by Afghan groups can lead to sustainable peace.
“Peace talks in Doha are negotiations between Afghans themselves and no other country should interfere in its details,” Araqchi said, adding that ideally, talks should take place inside Afghanistan and only Afghans can decide on that.
Launched Despite Funding Issues
The deputy minister also pointed at the recently inaugurated Khaf-Herat railroad, saying it will lead to an economic boom on both sides of the border while accelerating the transfer of goods and passengers.
“Using this railroad, the price of goods will decrease and both countries’ exports will increase,” he said.
The project provides landlocked Afghanistan with access to free waters and international markets.
Araqchi said Iran faced difficulties in funding the project over the past few years due to harsh US sanctions and launched the railroad in spite of American maximum pressure.
“This shows that the sanctions have truly failed,” he said.
The diplomat expressed hope that the two neighbors can use their capacities to extend the railroad toward other regions inside Afghanistan and further toward Central Asia.
The deputy minister also called for the collective international will to fight drug smuggling in Afghanistan, saying Western countries’ aid is not sufficient and has led to an increase in the production of narcotics instead.
“Iran has been harmed by both the entry of drugs to its domestic markets and their transfer from Iran to other countries by criminals and smugglers who caused [security] problems,” he said.
Araqchi urged European countries, which are the destinations of these drugs, to better perform their duties and cooperate with the Kabul government in countering the production and distribution of narcotics.