Taliban militants say progress has been made in talks with a delegation of Afghan government representatives in Tehran on finding a political solution to the escalating violence in the war-torn country amid the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem tweeted on July 8 that the two sides agreed in a joint declaration that they had come to a common understanding of the dangers of continuing the war and the damage it would do to the country.
The talks in Tehran came as the hard-line Islamist group continues to push through northern areas of Afghanistan.
“Both sides agreed that war is not the solution to Afghanistan's problems, and that all efforts must be directed towards a political and peaceful solution,” he said, adding that another meeting will take place “in the near future” to discuss issues such as “the mechanism for the transition from war to lasting peace.”
“War is not the solution to the Afghan problem and all efforts to reach a political and peaceful solution must be justified,” he added.
There was no immediate comment from Afghan officials on the meeting in Iran or its results.
The Afghan Islamic Press agency reported on July 8 that the two sides also met with Russian government representatives on expediting intra-Afghan talks on the peace process to bring an end to the ongoing conflict.
The Interfax news agency reported that a delegation from the Afghan Taliban’s political office was in Moscow for further talks.
TASS reported that Russian officials had received a pledge from the delegation that the militants would not attack areas along the Tajik-Afghan border.
The Taliban has captured large swaths of territory in northern Afghanistan as foreign troops exit the country, with over 1,000 Afghan civilians and servicemen fleeing to neighboring Tajikistan in recent days.
Tajik authorities say two-thirds of the 1,357-kilometer border with Afghanistan is under Taliban control and they are preparing for an influx of refugees to enter the country.
They say they are already providing Afghan refugees with food and shelter and have appealed to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russian-led military alliance that besides Tajikistan also includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.
The high-level delegation for the Taliban was led by Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, a member of the Taliban’s Doha political office.
The Taliban's advances have created concern in Afghanistan’s neighboring countries, including Iran, which hosts 3 million Afghan refugees.
Earlier this year, Tehran warned against a political vacuum in Afghanistan that the Taliban could try to fill.