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Taliban delegation meets Iranian officials amid stalled Afghan peace talks

Abdullah Abdullah, center, Chairman of Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation, speaks with members of delegations at the end of the session during the peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in the Qatari capital Doha on Sept. 12, 2020. (Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

A Taliban delegation has held talks with high-ranking Iranian officials in Tehran amid ongoing peace talks between the Afghan government and the militant group.

Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem tweeted that the delegation led by deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar met with Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, and other officials on January 27.

Naeem said the two sides discussed the Afghan peace process, border issues, and Afghan refugees.

Shamkhani was quoted by Iranian state media as saying that Tehran would “never recognize a group that wants to come to power through war,” and urged the Taliban to reach a peace settlement with the internationally recognized government in Kabul.

Baradar was quoted as saying that the militant group does not “trust the United States and we will fight any group that is a mercenary for the United States,” in reference to the Afghan government.

The relationship between Shi’ite-majority Iran and the Taliban, a fundamentalist Sunni group, is complex. Iran officially opposes the Taliban, but a number of experts claim that Tehran provides some military support to the Taliban.

The Taliban’s visit to Afghanistan’s western neighbor comes as peace talks in the Gulf state of Qatar remain deadlocked.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s new administration has said it is reviewing an agreement reached with the Taliban last year to determine if the militant group is meeting its commitments, including reaching a cease-fire and engaging in meaningful negotiations with the Afghan government.

Under a U.S.-Taliban deal reached last February, all foreign forces are to leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for security guarantees from the militant group, including severing ties with the Al-Qaeda terrorist group.

The Afghan government said it welcomed the Biden administration’s review of the U.S.-Taliban agreement.