Chinese Foreign Minister and Russian Envoy Visit Afghanistan

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made a surprise one-day visit to Afghanistan, where officials said he held talks on a variety of topics with Taliban rulers. He also reiterated China’s stance against international sanctions against the war-torn country.

Wang’s unannounced visit on Thursday, which is his first since the Taliban took power in the country last August, comes just a week before Beijing hosts Afghanistan’s neighbors in a meeting to discuss ways to help the country. overcome the humanitarian crisis and worsening economic upheaval.

Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi will also represent Kabul at the meeting scheduled for March 30-31 and brief meeting participants on the latest situation in Afghanistan.

Shortly after the top Chinese diplomat concluded his visit to Kabul, a senior delegation from Russia landed in the Afghan capital under the leadership of Zamir Kabulov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s envoy to Afghanistan.

Delegation-level talks between Muttaqi and Wang focused on strengthening bilateral political, economic and trade relations, the Taliban said in a statement after the meeting.

Wang was quoted as saying that “China does not interfere in Afghanistan’s internal affairs, nor does it wish to protect its interests through such intervention.” The Chinese diplomat opposed imposing political and economic sanctions on Afghanistan, the statement said.

Scholarships for Afghan students, visa issues, the start of work by Chinese investors in the mining sector to Afghanistan’s role in China’s “Belt and Road Initiative”, were also discussed, the statement added.

China hopes Afghanistan will fulfill its commitment not to allow external powers to use its territory as a tool to oppose its neighbors or endanger the security of other countries, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement, citing Wang while meeting Taliban Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Ghani Baradar.

“Vice PM Baradar stressed that Afghan territory will not be used against any country,” the Taliban statement said. “Ensuring peace and security in Afghanistan means peace and stability in the region,” the statement quoted Baradar as telling Wang.

The Chinese delegation under the leadership of Foreign Minister Wang Yi (left) holds talks with the Taliban delegation under Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi in Kabul, Thursday (24/3).

The Chinese delegation under the leadership of Foreign Minister Wang Yi (left) holds talks with the Taliban delegation under Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi in Kabul, Thursday (24/3).

At a press conference in Beijing Thursday (24/3), a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry underlined the importance of next week’s meeting with neighboring Afghanistan.

“We are accelerating preparations for the third foreign ministerial meeting of Afghanistan’s neighbors,” Wang Wenbin said at a press conference. “As Afghanistan’s neighbor, China is ready to increase its strength and contribute to Afghanistan’s lasting stability and security,” he said.

Beijing maintains ties to the Taliban, even as they launch a deadly insurgency against US and coalition forces. The hardline group seized power from the US-backed Afghan government seven months ago, when international forces withdrew their troops from Afghanistan after 20 years of war.

However, so far China has not given diplomatic recognition to the Taliban government, like most other countries.

However, Beijing and other neighbors, including Pakistan, have kept their embassies open in Kabul since the chaotic withdrawal of Western troops last August. Chinese officials insist that their communications with the group focus primarily on counterterrorism and humanitarian issues and any decision to recognize the Taliban government must be taken collectively by countries in the region.

China and Afghanistan share a 76-kilometer-long border.

Chinese officials fear that if instability continues in Afghanistan, militants linked to a banned anti-China group known as the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) could use Afghan territory as a location to launch attacks on China’s border region of Xinjiang.

ETIM claims it is fighting for the Uyghur Muslim minority in Xinjiang, which is suspected of being the target of human rights abuses by Chinese authorities – a charge Beijing denies and views as Western propaganda.

China has invested about $25 billion in massive infrastructure projects in Pakistan under the BRI. Both countries want to expand what is known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor or CPEC into Afghanistan to help promote political and economic stability there.

The Taliban welcomed the proposal. Pakistani, Chinese and Taliban delegations are also scheduled to hold tripartite dialogue on the sidelines of next week’s meeting in Beijing to discuss cooperation on economic projects, possibly under CPEC, officials in Islamabad said.

Russian Envoy’s Visit

Muttaqi’s office said that his meeting with the Russian delegation focused on strengthening political, economic, transport and regional relations, as well as fighting drug trafficking from Afghanistan. Moscow has also been in close communication with the Taliban even before the group seized power.

Humanitarian needs, caused by years of war and persistent drought, have risen to record-breaking points in Afghanistan since the Taliban seized power last August.

Western countries immediately suspended non-humanitarian aid to countries that depended heavily on it. They also imposed financial sanctions and froze Afghanistan’s billions of dollars’ worth of foreign currency reserves, most of which are held in the United States.

The United Nations says that more than half of Afghanistan’s 40 million people will face starvation. The United Nations also predicts that 95 percent of Afghans will live below the poverty line by the middle of this year. The world body has warned that about one million Afghan children could die from malnutrition.

Wang traveled to Kabul from Pakistan, where he was invited as a special guest to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) foreign ministers’ conference, which represents China’s first presence in the Muslim association’s history. The Chinese diplomat will visit India on Friday (25/3).

Thursday’s visit by top Chinese and Russian officials to Kabul comes amid worldwide criticism of the Taliban for breaking their promise to allow Afghan teenage girls to return to school.

The group reopened schools across much of Afghanistan on Wednesday (23/3), but decided at the last minute not to allow girls in grades seven through 12 to continue their education, citing a lack of education. rules according to Sharia law for female students. [rd/lt]