Edmonton Journal

China hosts Taliban to talk Afghanista­n

- REBECCA TAN

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.

 ?? LI RAN / XINHUA VIA AP ?? Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, right, welcomed a nine-member delegation from the Taliban that included
chief negotiator and top political leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Tianjin, China, on Wednesday.
LI RAN / XINHUA VIA AP Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, right, welcomed a nine-member delegation from the Taliban that included chief negotiator and top political leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Tianjin, China, on Wednesday.

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