TEHRAN – Afghanistan’s Taliban authorities and neighboring Iran said Sunday deadly clashes between their border security forces had subsided, with both sides engaging in talks to ease tensions.
The skirmishes erupted in the Afghan border province of Nimroz Saturday, martyring two Iranian security forces and killing a Taliban militant, officials in both countries said.
The exchange of cross-border gunfire, initiated by the Taliban, escalated Iran’s tensions with Afghanistan amid a dispute over water resources.
On Sunday, the official Iranian news agency IRNA quoted a senior official as saying that “the situation is under control” in the conflict zone near the Sasuli border post in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchistan province.
Alireza Marhamati, the deputy provincial governor, said that “local Iranian and Afghan officials have held negotiations on the cause of the clashes and agreed to continue their talks.”
A spokesman for the Afghan interior affairs ministry said in a statement that his government “does not want to fight with its neighbors”.
Bilateral tensions have recently escalated over the Taliban’s breach of a 1973 water-sharing treaty between Tehran and Kabul by blocking water flow from Helmand River, which flows from Afghanistan to Iran’s arid eastern border regions.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, during a visit to the border province, called on the Taliban to respect the treaty, which envisions shared water resources and outlines access to monitoring of the water level. Raisi warned the de facto Afghan rulers against violating the agreement and vowed to defend Iran’s water rights.
“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan believes dialogue and negotiation are a good path to addressing any issue,” Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Enayatullah Khowarazmi wrote on his official Twitter account.
The United Nations says Afghanistan and Iran have suffered from a prolonged drought, and drought conditions have worsened over the past decade.
Last week, Afghan Foreign Affairs Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, responding to statements by the Iranian officials, said that Kabul was committed to the water treaty.
Analysts warned that Afghanistan and the region at large could ill afford another conflict.
Torek Farhadi, a former Afghan official, said the Taliban would avoid a standoff with Iran. He noted that Afghanistan is fragile after 40 years of war, and four million Afghans live on Iranian soil as refugees.
“Sure, skirmishes and then a war can start with Iran, but soon Afghanistan will end up as the terrain for proxy wars with Tehran,” said Farhadi. “Arms and munitions will flow to Afghanistan to fight Iran, but the fighters would be Afghan youth, and the destruction will occur in Afghanistan. Not a good perspective.”