The main border crossing between Iran and Afghanistan was closed on Saturday following skirmishes between Iranian border guards and the Taliban forces.
According to official sources, Taliban authorities in the Islam Qala district of western Afghanistan’s Herat province were paving a road in the border zone with Iran, which was obstructed by Iranian border guards.
Iranian president’s special envoy for Afghanistan Hassan Kazemi Qommi issued a statement, confirming that local authorities in Herat had attempted to construct a road in the Islam Qala-Dogharoun border area “without prior coordination” with the Iranian side.
He said the road breached the border between the two countries, and the move was prevented by Iranian border guards.
Mawlawi Homayoun Hemmat, the deputy commissioner of Islam Qala district, told the private Afghan broadcaster TOLO News that a vehicle belonging to Iranian forces had crossed over to the Afghan side and was seized by local officials.
Both sides have put their border forces on high alert, fearing an escalation of tensions.
Qommi said Tehran has raised the issue with the Taliban’s interior and defence ministries, stressing that the construction work should be halted and the issue be resolved within the framework of the joint border commission.
Iran shares a largely porous 900-km (559-mile) border with Afghanistan. Islam Qala-Dogharoun border crossing that connects Afghanistan’s Herat with Iran’s Mashhad sees the maximum rush, used extensively for travel and trade.
It’s the second time since the Taliban’s takeover in Kabul last August that the two sides have engaged in border skirmishes.
In December last year, fierce clashes were reported in the border area between Iran’s Shagalak and Afghanistan’s Nimroz, fueled by a border wall that Iran was constructing.
The Taliban claimed that the wall was coming up on the zero point of the border, and not on the Iranian side. Tehran rejected the claim.
Tehran shared close relations with the Taliban before the group made a dramatic comeback in Kabul, but their relations have been marked by tensions in recent months.
Earlier this month, Iran temporarily suspended its consular services in Afghanistan after attacks on its diplomatic missions in Kabul and Herat by protesters angry over the condition of Afghan refugees in Iran.
Iran has so far refused to recognize the Taliban government, deeming it not inclusive.