American and Iranian diplomats have held their first talks under a Russian initiative on ending the war in Afghanistan as signs that President Barack Obama's efforts to mend relations with the Islamic nation seems to be showing signs of progress, reports say.
The talks came as Obama unveiled his Afghanistan-Pakistan policy, though some may like to call it Af-Pak strategy, Friday to reign in a resurgent al-Qaida and Taliban and bring peace to the war-torn Afghanistan.
The unveiling of the new policy was followed by the president leading a raft of American officials who fanned out Sunday talk shows to drum support for the policy, and which strategists reckon is increasingly focused on a toxic and recalcitrant Pakistan.
Patrick Moon, the U.S. diplomat in charge of south and central Asia, and Mehdi Akhundzadeh, Iran's deputy foreign minister, as well as a British diplomat who has been acting as a mediator held a remarkable meeting in Moscow on the Afghan situation.
We've turned a page to have Iranians and Americans at the same table all discussing Afghanistan, Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said.
Friday's meeting was held under the auspices of the Shanghai Co-operation Organization (SCO), a six-member regional security group comprising Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as full-time members, to discuss combating terrorism and drug trafficking in Afghanistan.
Others present at the meeting included Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary-general, the foreign ministers of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and senior British diplomats.
The U.S. and Iranian diplomats spoke within minutes of each other. Akhundzadeh told delegates that narcotics represent a serious threat to the region and no country could fight the trade alone.
Akhundzadeh will travel to The Hague, Netherlands Tuesday for a conference on Afghanistan, at which the U.S. hopes he will meet secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who will utilize these talks to persuade Iran to negotiate the halting its uranium enrichment program.
The talks followed NATO's first official contact with Iran two weeks ago, when the Iranian ambassador held talks on drugs and refugees with the alliance's assistant secretary-general.
The U.S. move to participate at the SCO meet this time suggests that Washington, which has been apprehensive about SCO amid fears of the growing influence of Russia in Central Asia, is looking for new partners to sort out the Afghan mess, a marked change from its position till recently.
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