Iran ‘ready to engage with neighbours for regional peace’

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New Delhi, Jan 9 (IANS) Iran is ready to engage with all neighbours in the interests of sovereignty, integrity, peace and stability of the region, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said on Wednesday.

“Let us start with regional dialogue forums in our region, which has seen so many wars in the recent decades since Saddam Hussain’s Iraq attacked Iran first and then Kuwait,” Zarif said while addressing the 2019 Raisina Dialogue, India’s flagship annual geopolitical and geostrategic conference, here.

“We are prepared to engage with all neighbours,” he said.

Zarif said the admissions to such regional forums should be governed by sovereignty, integrity, peace and stability of states.

Stating that dialogue forums can be through government, private sector and civil society, he said: “We need a strong region, and not dominant strong men.”

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Meanwhile, in an apparent softening of Tehran’s stand vis-a-vis Islamabad’s policy on war-ravaged Afghanistan, Zarif told a news channel here that the “Pakistani position on Afghanistan is evolving and we believe that Pakistan now is trying to play a positive role in getting a peace process underway in Afghanistan”.

“I understand that the Pakistanis also do not wish to see an Afghanistan dominated by extremists groups because that for Iran and India is a security threat but for Pakistan, it is an existential threat. Extremism in Pakistan and Afghanistan is an existential threat for Pakistan.”

India is closely watching the developments in Afghanistan particularly after US President Donald Trump announced he would withdraw 7,000 of the 14,000 US troops from there.

Zarif said the presence of US troops did “nothing to help the security and stability of Afghanistan”.

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Zarif’s remarks came even as the Afghan Taliban called off talks with US officials scheduled in Qatar this week reportedly over an “agenda disagreement”.

The Taliban have repeatedly rejected talks on peace with the Afghan government in the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan.

Organised by the External Affairs Ministry in partnership with the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) think tank, this fourth edition of the Raisina Dialogue is being attended by over 600 delegates from 92 countries, including influential political leaders, strategic thinkers, policy practitioners, technology innovators, business representatives and academics.

–IANS

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