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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Chinese FM to meet interim Taliban gov. in Qatar on Monday


While Beijing has been engaging with the Taliban, it has yet to formally recognise the new administration.

China’s Foreign Minister and State Councillor Wang Yi is scheduled to meet a delegation from the interim Taliban-led Afghan government in Qatar during a two-day visit, the Chinese foreign ministry announced on Monday.

According to Beijing’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin, the two sides will be discussing the latest situation in Afghanistan and areas of “common concern” between 25-26 October.

“As Afghanistan’s traditional friendly neighbour and partner, China has always advocated dialogue and contact to guide the positive development of the situation in Afghanistan,” the foreign ministry spokesman told a regular news briefing in Beijing.

In July, weeks ahead of the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul, China’s foreign minister met with the group in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin. During the meeting, China said it expected the Taliban to play an important role in the Afghan peace process as well as the rebuilding of the country.

Taliban co-founder and acting deputy prime minister, Abdul Ghani Baradar, was among a delegation that previously met with the Chinese official.

Wang said he hoped the insurgent group would crack down on the East Turkestan Islamic Movement [ETIM] as it was a “direct threat to China’s national security” due to its presence in the Xinjiang region – also where most Uyghur Muslims are located.

The ETIM was placed on the US terror list in 2002 under the George W Bush administration but was removed in November last year as “there has been no credible evidence” that the group continues to exist, Washington said at the time.

The meetings took place amid heightened security concerns, given that China shares a border with Afghanistan.

More recently, China announced $31 million worth of emergency aid including Covid-19 vaccines to Afghanistan after the Taliban unveiled the new interim government. The Taliban also declared China as its “main partner” in rebuilding Afghanistan.

Khalilzad ‘remains committed’ to working for peace in Afghanistan despite resignation

China was also one of the few countries that kept its embassies in Kabul after the Taliban’s takeover. Several countries, including the US, moved their consulates from Afghanistan to Qatar following the troop withdrawal.

In Moscow meetings last week, China, Russia and Iran agreed to work with the Taliban in efforts to promote security in the region. The countries also called on the interim government to “practise moderate and sound internal and external policies” and “adopt friendly policies towards neighbours of Afghanistan”.

More countries have now started to engage with the Taliban following initial hesitation.

For many, including Qatar which hosts a Taliban political office in Doha, recognition of the Taliban has been downplayed as not an immediate priority as the country grapples with a worsening humanitarian and economic situation.

In an extraordinary G20 meeting earlier this month, Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said the international community bears a responsibility to support Afghanistan, calling for dialogue rather than isolation.

As countries continue to isolate Afghanistan due to its new government, Sheikh Tamim said this “has proven that isolation leads to polarisation of positions, sharp reactions” noting a solution through dialogue is essential.

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