Taliban welcome first Chinese ambassador since takeover

Taliban’s supreme head of administration Mohammad Hassan Akhund was present at the reception in Kabul

Arpan Rai
Thursday 14 September 2023 10:59 BST
<p>China’s new ambassador to Afghanistan Zhao Sheng meets the Taliban ministers in Kabul </p>

China’s new ambassador to Afghanistan Zhao Sheng meets the Taliban ministers in Kabul

The Taliban extended a grand welcome to China’s new ambassador to Afghanistan on Wednesday, confirming Beijing’s diplomatic acceptance of the caretaker rulers.

China appointed ambassador Zhao Sheng as its mission head in Afghanistan, becoming the first prominent nation to have a functional diplomatic mission in the country. This comes more than two years after the fall of Kabul when the Taliban took control of the nation.

The delegate’s car, escorted by a police convoy, rolled into the tree-lined driveway of the Presidential Palace in Kabul on Wednesday. Mr Zhao was greeted by uniformed soldiers as he met top-ranking Taliban officials.

Mohammad Hassan Akhund, the Taliban’s supreme head of the administration, and Amir Khan Muttaqi, foreign affairs minister, were present at the reception in Kabul.

Mr Zhao was dressed in a grey suit and was accompanied by a team of four people as he met the Taliban minister to hand over his credentials. Four members from the Taliban’s ministry were also present.

Mr Zhao’s nomination, the minister said, was a “significant step with a significant message”.

“Muttaqi assured the new Chinese ambassador of all kinds of cooperation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The foreign minister considered the bilateral relations between Afghanistan and China to be special,” the deputy spokesperson of the Taliban’s Foreign Ministry said, sharing photos of the meeting.

This is the first time the Taliban has accorded a lavish protocol after the US and Nato forces withdrew from the country in 2021.

Zabiulah Mujahid, the chief Taliban spokesperson, however said that it is a tradition for new ambassadors to present their credentials to the head of the country.

“It also signals to other countries to come forward and interact with the Islamic Emirate,” he said.

“We should establish good relations as a result of good interactions and, with good relations, we can solve all the problems that are in front of us or coming in the future.”

The Taliban’s spokesperson did not elaborate about what Mr Zhao’s presence meant for the regime’s demand for official recognition at the international stage.

Officials in China did not issue a formal statement confirming the presence of its diplomatic mission on Afghan soil but a statement from China’s embassy in Afghanistan urged the international community to maintain its dialogue and encourage the country to put in place an inclusive political framework, adopt moderate policies, combat terrorism and develop friendly external relations.

It said certain countries needed to “draw lessons” from what happened in Afghanistan, abandon double standards on combating terrorism, return the country’s overseas assets, and lift sanctions.

Over a hundred nations have withheld official recognition of Afghanistan’s regime under the Taliban, deadlocking assets abroad to prevent the financial misuse by the hardline Islamist group.

The country’s seat at the United Nations is still held by the former Western-backed government that was led by Ashraf Ghani.

This year, China and the Taliban have expressed their desire for closer ties, especially commercial ones, by inking several deals.

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