China’s foreign minister Wang Yi on Wednesday met the political chief of Afghanistan’s Taliban Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar for talks on peace and regional security, signalling the insurgent group’s growing clout on the international stage at a sensitive time of transition.
The meeting, in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin, was part of the two-day China visit of the nine-member Taliban delegation based on an invitation from Beijing.
“Politics, economy and issues related to the security of both countries and the current situation of Afghanistan and the peace process were discussed in the meetings,” said Taliban spokesperson Mohammed Naeem in a tweet.
He said that the delegation led by Taliban negotiator and deputy leader Mullah Baradar Akhund, was also meeting China’s special envoy for Afghanistan.
According to a readout of the meeting from China’s foreign ministry, Wang Yi said the Taliban is expected to “play an important role in the process of peaceful reconciliation and reconstruction in Afghanistan.”
Wang Yi also said that he hoped the Taliban would crack down on the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) as it was a “direct threat to China’s national security” which China says is active in the Xinjiang region.
“As the largest neighbour of Afghanistan, China always pursues a friendly policy towards the entire Afghan people. Afghanistan belongs to the Afghan people, and its future and destiny should be in the hands of the Afghan people,” tweeted China’s foreign affairs ministry spokesperson.
The ministry said that they hope the Taliban will put “Afghanistan’s national interests first, uphold commitment to peace talks, embrace the goal of peace, create a positive image and adopt an inclusive policy.”
“All factions and ethnic groups in #Afghanistan should be united, truly implement the ‘Afghan-led and Afghan-owned’ principle, work for early substantive results of the peace and reconciliation process, and independently establish a broad-based and inclusive political structure suited to Afghanistan’s own national conditions,” tweeted the ministry.
Mohammed Naeem said that the delegation “assured China that they will not allow anyone to use the Afghan soil against China.”
“China also reiterated its commitment of continuation of their assistance with Afghans and said they will not interfere in Afghanistan’s issues but will help to solve the problems and restoration of peace in the country,” he said.
The Taliban have been trying to seize control of large parts of Afghan territory, including districts and border crossings, as the troops of the US and allies are withdrawing from the country after 20 years. Afghanistan, which shares a border with China, is facing a deteriorating security situation and the war-torn country faces a renewed threat of unrest.
Afghanistan forces are, meanwhile, trying to push back the Taliban. The China visit of the Taliban is likely to cement the insurgent group’s recognition on the international stage at a sensitive time of transition in Afghanistan.
The Taliban have a political office in Qatar’s capital where peace talks have not led to any substantial progress. Earlier this month, the Taliban representatives went to Iran where they met a delegation of the Afghanistan government.
Additional reporting by agencies
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