HERAT -- Taliban and Iranian officials publicly admitted at a security forum in Herat that the militant group is receiving support from the Iranian regime.
Russia and Pakistan also are backing the fighters, Taliban officials said at the Herat Security Dialogue held in Herat city on October 18-19.
The eighth round of the dialogue brought together politicians, political analysts and officials from 18 countries and five international institutions. Participants, who included representatives from the United States, Pakistan, China and India, discussed the Afghan peace process.
"I confirm that Iran, Russia and Pakistan support the Taliban," Mullah Mutasem Agha Jan, minister of finance during the Taliban regime (1996-2001) and former political representative of the Taliban Quetta Shura (council), said at the gathering.
"Iran is concerned that ISIS ['Islamic State of Iraq and Syria'] receives support in Afghanistan, and Russia looks at the expansion of ISIS's activities as a threat to itself," he said.
Sayed Rasool Mosawi, an Iranian assistant foreign minister who represented his government at the Herat event, did not deny its support of the Taliban.
"They [earlier speakers that day] said during the meeting that Iran helps the Taliban, has a relationship with them or whatever," he said in his speech at the conference. "I want to say that the Taliban are also our neighbours and that we have to live with our neighbours."
Afghanistan is suffering a power play by Tehran and Moscow, Rangin Dadfar Spanta, a national security adviser during the presidency of Hamid Karzai, said at the conference.
"An intelligence and proxy war is going on in Afghanistan," Spanta said. "Iran and Russia are trying to escalate this war because of their feud with the United States. They carry out their proxy wars through the Taliban and other groups."
"The Taliban's war is not jihad, but they misuse the name of jihad to hide their massacres and crimes," he added. "This is a false jihad that suppresses democracy."
"The Taliban use Islam as a weapon in this war."
'A better opportunity for talks'
As the Iranian regime's support for the Taliban was confirmed, officials from other countries urged for the resumption of peace talks.
"I believe that the talks between the United States and the Taliban have been paused and haven't been fully cancelled," Roland Kobia, the European Union (EU) special envoy for Afghanistan, said at the meeting. "The US and the Taliban need to proceed with these talks and reach an outcome."
The EU hopes that the peace talks resume and that a ceasefire emerges, said Kobia.
"Afghans and the international community have realised that this painful war should end and that there is a better opportunity for talks," he added. "Afghanistan has all the preparations in place for peace, and Afghans are thirsty for peace."
"Peace with the Taliban should improve the situation, and it won't cost the Afghan people's achievements in the past 18 years or historic Afghan values," Kobia said. "Similarly, the democracy that has been achieved in Afghanistan through many sacrifices shouldn't be compromised in peace talks with the Taliban."
"The European Union will support development in Afghanistan, but we also have our values, and if the [Taliban's] Islamic Emirate returns, our support to Afghanistan won't remain a possibility," Kobia said.
The United States' role in the peace talks has been focused on facilitating intra-Afghan discussions, said Robin Raphel, a former US assistant secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, at the conference.
"Zalmay Khalilzad's peace talks with the Taliban don't mean that the US wants the entire process to take place in the absence of Afghans, but they are intended to create an opportunity for intra-Afghan peace talks," she said, referring to the US special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation.
"The intra-Afghan peace talks will decide on a variety of issues, and the US will play a facilitator and supporter's role in these talks, and it won't interfere with the decisions Afghans will make," she added.
"We believe that most of the current issues will be resolved once the intra-Afghan peace talks begin, and the intensity of violence will also be reduced," said Bakhtior Mustafayev, director of the Institute for Strategic and Regional Studies Centre under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
"If Afghans are willing, we're ready to host direct peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government in Uzbekistan," he said.
Peace in Afghanistan cannot come through talks in Islamabad, Tehran, Beijing or Moscow, said Herat Governor Abdul Qayum Rahimi at the meeting.
Peace imposed on Afghans from outside will not be a true peace, he said.
"Afghan history reveals that Afghans have many times resolved their internal disputes without foreigners' intervention, and they have the ability to end this war as well and reach peace," Rahimi added.
"We tell neighbouring countries that they better stay away from taking advantage of the Afghan peace," he said.