Taliban foreign minister in Tehran: economy and relations with resistance on agenda

Amir Khan Muttaqi and his Iranian counterpart Hussain Amir Abdullahian reach trade agreement. Islamic Republic had already discussed shipment of food and medicine with India through Chabahar port. Taliban delegation offers opposition leaders safe return home, but government critics are arrested.


Kabul (AsiaNews/Agencies) - After the U.S. withdrawal and the Taliban's seizure of Kabul last August, nations in the region have found themselves dealing with a new government that they have not yet formally recognized, but with which they have opened diplomatic channels.

Yesterday, a delegation led by the Foreign Minister of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Amir Khan Muttaqi, flew to Tehran to meet his Iranian counterpart, Hussain Amir Abdullahian. The meeting between the two concerned bilateral political and economic relations: according to a statement issued by the Taliban government, "Iran will be able to use the territory of Afghanistan to export its goods to Central and South Asia, and in the same way Afghanistan will be able to use the Iranian territory for exports".

In the meantime, on January 8, the day preceding the meeting with the Taliban envoy, Abdullahian had already proposed to India to cooperate in order to send humanitarian aid to Kabul through the Islamic Republic so as to avoid the passage through Pakistan, which in the past months has caused many tensions between Islamabad and New Delhi.

In October, India offered to send 50 thousand tons of grain to the Afghan neighbor through Pakistan, which after an initial assent refused to carry out the shipment because it wants it to be done under its own conditions, not those of Delhi; as a result, the load of aid has not yet started and two tranches of medicines and anti-Covid vaccines departed from India this month passed first through Tehran and then through Dubai.

In his January 8 phone call with Abdullahian, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar discussed using the Iranian port of Chabahar to ship food and medicine to Afghanistan. The port stems from a trilateral agreement signed in 2016: it allows Iran to avoid U.S. economic sanctions by connecting it with oceanic economic routes, while India sees it as an alternative and rival infrastructure project to China's Belt and Road Initiative, especially the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, centered on the Pakistani port of Gwadar, not too far from Chabahar.

But Iran has also acted as a mediator in the Afghan political crisis: in Teheran, the Taliban Muttaqi met the opposition leaders Ahmad Massoud (son of the "Lion of Panshjir" and head of what is called the National Resistance Force) and Ismail Khan, local chief of the western province of Herat who had taken refuge in Iran during the capitulation of the city. To both the Taliban say they want to guarantee a safe return home.

Developments are awaited, but despite the fact that the Iranian Foreign Minister Abdullahian, in his phone call with Jaishankar on Saturday, stressed the need for Afghanistan to form an inclusive government, it is increasingly difficult to believe the promises of the Taliban: after the ban on taxi drivers to take fare from women alone and barefaced, signs have appeared in the streets of Kabul recommending the wearing of the hijab, even the heads of mannequins have been cut off in recent days and critics of the government have been arrested.

Professor Faizullah Jalal, a lecturer at Kabul University, has been jailed for repeatedly blaming the Taliban on television in recent months. To justify his arrest, the Taliban re-shared tweets from a fake account of the professor.