December 26, 2018 / 11:31 AM / 21 days ago

Iran in talks with Afghan Taliban - Iranian state media report

FILE PHOTO: A member of the Taliban holds a flag in Kabul, Afghanistan June 16, 2018. The writing on the flag reads: 'There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the messenger of Allah'. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail/File Photo

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran has been holding talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban with the knowledge of the Afghan government, a senior Iranian security official was quoted by the official news agency IRNA as saying on Wednesday during a visit to Kabul.

The news came days after reports last week of talks between U.S. and Taliban officials over proposals for a ceasefire in Afghanistan and a future withdrawal of foreign troops ahead of possible peace negotiations.

Talks between Iran and the Taliban were held “to help curb the security problems in Afghanistan,” Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, was quoted by IRNA as saying.

“All contacts and talks with the Taliban group have been with the knowledge of Afghanistan’s government and this process will continue,” he said. He gave no further details.

Majority-Shi’ite Iran has long had close ties to Shi’ites in neighbouring Afghanistan whose militias have fought the Taliban’s Sunni militants.

But in recent months Afghan officials have accused Tehran, which the United States says is trying to extend its influence in western Afghanistan, of providing the Taliban with money, weapons and explosives. Iran denies that.

Earlier this month, Afghan forces abandoned a remote western district bordering Iran, leaving the area to the Taliban after the government failed to resupply troops stationed there.

In November, the United States displayed pieces of what it said were Iranian weapons supplied to militants in Yemen and Afghanistan, a move by Washington to pressure Tehran to curb its regional activities. Iran denies supplying arms to the militants.

In October, the United States accused Iran of providing military training, financing and weapons to the Taliban and targeted sanctions against eight individuals, including two linked to the Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Tehran denies the accusations.

Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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