LONDON, Dec 31 (Reuters) – Iran said Taliban representatives from Afghanistan negotiated with Iranian officials in Tehran on Sunday, as the Islamic Republic seeks to advance peace talks in the neighbouring country to curb the influence of other Islamist groups.
The talks were held with the knowledge of Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and were intended to set parameters for negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said on Monday.
“A Taliban delegation was in Tehran yesterday. They had comprehensive negotiations with the Iranian deputy foreign minister,” Bahram Qasemi said in a news conference broadcast live on state television.
The Taliban, seeking to re-impose strict Islamic law in Afghanistan after their 2001 overthrow, say the presence of international forces there is the main obstacle to peace. Even as the peace process gathers momentum, fighting has continued with heavy casualties on both sides.
Groups Bands of Islamic State fighters have been increasingly active in Afghanistan in recent years, clashing with both government and Taliban forces and alarming neighbouring nations.
Taliban sources said this month that they had also negotiated with the U.S. officials over proposals for a six-month ceasefire in Afghanistan and a future withdrawal of foreign troops.
Also in December, Afghan forces abandoned a remote western district bordering Iran, leaving the area to the Taliban after the government failed to resupply troops stationed there.
(Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; editing by John Stonestreet)