China hosts Taliban to talk Afghanistan
China expressed support for the Taliban's role in Afghanistan's future while warning it to cut ties with a separatist movement in the Xinjiang region, in a clear expression of Beijing's geopolitical goals in the Central Asian country.
Just days after meeting with top U.S. officials in the port city of Tianjin, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi welcomed a nine-member delegation from the Taliban that included chief negotiator and top political leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. This comes amid the U.S. withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, which some experts and officials have warned could lead to political instability in the region.
According to a Foreign Ministry statement, Wang told Taliban leaders that America's “hasty withdrawal” from Afghanistan is a mark of its policy failures in the country. China will not interfere in Afghanistan's internal affairs, he said, adding that the Taliban is expected to “play an important role in the process of peace, reconciliation and reconstruction” of the country.
The meeting comes as the Taliban has increasingly been reaching out to countries in the region, in the likely expectation that the movement will soon become a major player in the running of Afghanistan.
While peace talks are underway between representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, they have been stalled, even as the militants have unleashed offensives in Afghanistan that have won it new territory.
Chinese leaders also took the opportunity to demand that the Taliban sever all ties with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which Beijing has frequently blamed for attacks in its far western Xinjiang province. The movement “poses a direct threat to China's national security and territorial integrity,” Wang said, adding that “it is the common responsibility of the international community to fight against ETIM.”
Taliban leaders at the meeting pledged to respect the national security of China, Mohammad Naeem, spokesperson for the Taliban's political office, said in a Twitter statement.
“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,” Naeem tweeted.
Naeem added that the group was also meeting China's special envoy for Afghanistan and that the trip took place after an invitation from Chinese authorities.
China has long been critical of U.S. presence in Afghanistan but recently aired concerns that U.S. military withdrawal could plunge the region into instability.
Human rights violations against the Uyghur population in Xinjiang have elicited international condemnation and continue to be a major source of tension between the U.S. and China.