Ali Akbar Salehi

Iran and Afghanistan have signed an agreement on bilateral cooperation following the fourth Iran-Afghanistan Joint Economic Commission meeting in Kabul.

The agreement contains details on economic and security co-operation as well as ways of expanding mutual relations.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi announced that Iran is prepared to use all its power to cooperate with Afghanistan on border security, the fight against drug trafficking and expanding economic relations.

He added that Iran will make every effort to resolve issues facing Afghans who travel to Iran or reside there. He added that “so far 160,000 Afghan citizens in Iran have acquired passports.”

Economic cooperation is probably the most important issue for both countries. Iran needs a secure market for its goods, while landlocked Afghanistan needs access to open waters.

The two countries have spoken of the Chabahar Port in southeastern Iran as a hub for their growing relationship.

One day before the Iranian Foreign Minister’s visit to Kabul, an Iranian delegation of 30 experts arrived there to draft the details of the agreement.

Earlier, on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran, which wrapped up last Friday, Iran, India and Afghanistan participated in a trilateral meeting, after which they agreed to expand economic relations and investment in the Chabahar Port in Iran.

This comes even as the United States has been urging Afghanistan to cut off relations with Iranian companies and institutions that are under U.S. sanctions.

Iran exports an estimated $1.5 billion in goods per year to Afghanistan, and the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce says another $2 billion in goods enters Afghanistan through the Bandar Abbas port in southern Iran.

The United States has cited the Bandar Abbas port authority as one of the entities under its sanctions and urged Afghanistan to withdraw from doing business there.

Iran and Afghanistan have maintained good relations in the past 10 years despite the U.S. presence in Afghanistan.

This is the first time that the United States has challenged Iran-Afghanistan trade relations and has warned Afghan businesses that companies dealing with the blacklisted Iranian companies will face similar U.S. sanctions.