Iran hosts Taliban delegation in Afghan peace attempt

While rare, these are not the first talks between the Taliban and Iranian officials

FILE PHOTO: Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif reacts during a news conference with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (not pictured) after their meeting in Moscow, Russia, September 2, 2019. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina/File Photo

Iran has hosted a group of Taliban officials in Tehran in an effort to breathe life into a collapsed Afghan peace process.

The country’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with one of the group's founders Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar on Tuesday, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Mr Zarif expressed Iran's willingness to support dialogue between all Afghan parties with the participation of the Afghan government, according to IRNA.

The Taliban have refused to talk to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government, denouncing it as a US puppet.

Last week, the Taliban released American and Australian university professors held hostage for more than three years, completing a delayed prisoner swap and raising hopes for a revival of peace talks.

Iran also held talks with a delegation from Afghanistan’s Taliban in September, a week after peace talks between the United States and the Islamist insurgents collapsed.

Iran said in December it had been meeting with Taliban representatives with the knowledge of the Afghan government, after reports of US-Taliban talks about a ceasefire and a possible withdrawal of foreign troops.

While rare, these are not the first talks between the Taliban and Iranian officials.

US-Taliban peace talks collapsed in September. In the following weeks, a Taliban delegation traveled to Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan.

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