By Syed Zafar Mehdi
TEHRAN, Iran (AA) – Leaders of Afghanistan's neighboring countries gathered in Tehran on Wednesday, pledging support to the crisis-stricken country while reiterating call for formation of an inclusive government in Kabul.
In a joint statement following the summit, all participating countries emphasized the need for dialogue to evolve an “inclusive political mechanism” for resolving the crisis facing the country that sits at the crossroads of southern and central Asia.
It called on the Taliban government to implement "prudent domestic and foreign policies" as well as "restore order to society", and not allow the Afghan territory to be used against neighboring countries.
The statement called for a "friendly approach to neighboring countries", "respect for international law and human rights" as well as fight against organized crime, drug and human trafficking and terrorism.
It also urged the Afghan authorities and the international community to address the "root causes of forced migration and displacement in Afghanistan" and work together to find a "lasting solution" to the Afghan refugee crisis.
The Taliban regained control of Kabul on Aug. 15 after the previous Western-backed administration collapsed and its officials fled the war-torn country.
- Strong message
Speaking to reporters, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said the day-long summit aimed at conveying a message that Afghanistan's fate was important for its neighbors.
He warned that economic crisis could push Afghan youth toward terrorism, adding that Iran is trying to keep trade routes open to help delivery of aid to the war-torn country.
The multilateral summit in Tehran came less than a week after a similar conference on Afghanistan was hosted by Moscow that saw the participation of many regional countries, as well as representatives of the interim Taliban government.
The Tehran summit, which follows the virtual summit hosted by Pakistan in early September, was attended by foreign ministers of Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
The top diplomats of Russia and China joined the summit through a video link. But the Iranian government chose not to invite the representatives of the Taliban.
In his speech, Amir-Abdollahian said the summit seeks to send a "strong message" to the international community, the regional countries as well as the Taliban government.
The conference, he asserted, aims to draw a "clear picture of realities of Afghanistan" and sketch a "roadmap for future actions", while noting that neighboring countries were "most affected" by developments in that country.
"Neighbors and the international community need to pay particular attention to the political, humanitarian, terrorism and drug trafficking, human rights and women's situation in Afghanistan," Amir-Abdollahian said, pinning the blame for the country's problems on the 20-year foreign intervention.
He said the US "irresponsibly fled the scene" and paved the way for the present crisis facing the South Asian country, while adding that the neighboring countries can now play a "constructive role in creating harmony between political and ethnic groups" in Afghanistan and "help manage the crisis".
He also reiterated his call for the formation of an inclusive and broad-based government in Kabul with participation of all political and ethnic groups "through inter-Afghan dialogue".
The one-day conference was inaugurated by Iran's Vice-President Mohammad Mokhber, filling in for President Ebrahim Raisi, who skipped the summit to address problems arising from Tuesday's massive cyberattack on Iran's vast gas distribution system.
- Inclusive gov’t
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi warned that Afghanistan's economic collapse can lead to instability, conflict, and refugee influx into neighboring countries.
“We must support an Afghanistan that contributes positively to regional stability and promotes connectivity. We must do so while respecting its sovereignty and territorial integrity," Qureshi said.
Qureshi and his Iranian counterpart held a bilateral meeting on Tuesday, followed by a joint press conference, in which they reiterated commitment to support the crisis-hit Afghanistan and called for an inclusive Afghan government.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who addressed the summit online, said Moscow expects the interests of all groups and ethnicities in Afghanistan to be respected, and supports the establishment of a fully inclusive government in Kabul.
He said the ongoing summits on Afghanistan must "complement each other" rather than "duplicate", while hoping the Tehran conference makes a "significant contribution" to joint efforts to "solve the numerous problems of the Afghan people."
- 'US-made crisis'
Lavrov blamed the current crisis in Afghanistan on what he called the "two decades of imposing the US-NATO model of state-building."
"The persistent desire of Westerners to reshape Afghanistan according to their patterns has led to sad consequences: internal hostility and bloodshed, polarization of society, socio-economic collapse, humanitarian catastrophe," Lavrov said.
"It contributed to the rampant international terrorist groups, unprecedented in terms of drug production and corruption," he added.
The Russian diplomat said the international community must recognize the "objective reality" of Taliban in power and pave the way for Taliban-ruled Afghanistan's return to the international arena "as a responsible and peaceful state."
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the Taliban are eager to have dialogue with the international community and the country needs help with its development.
Wang reaffirmed Beijing's readiness to host further talks between Afghanistan and its neighbors on the country's future.
"The Taliban are eager to have dialogue with the world," the top Chinese diplomat said. "China will host the third neighbors of Afghanistan meeting at the appropriate time."
UN chief Antonio Guterres, in his speech, warned of a "humanitarian crisis" in Afghanistan, and stressed the need for immediate action. He also expressed grave concern over recent terror attacks in the country.