BEIJING, March 30 (AP): China’s ambitions to have a major hand in Afghanistan’s stability and development under the Taliban, while boosting its own stature, will be on display at a pair of multinational meetings it is hosting starting Wednesday.
China, Russia, Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are expected to send representatives to the main meetings involving neighbouring states.
A separate meeting of the “Extended Troika” will be held concurrently among special envoys for Afghanistan from China, the United States and Russia, China’s Foreign Ministry said.
“China, the US, Russia and Pakistan are all countries with significant influence on the Afghan issue,” ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said of the Troika meeting.
The talks will “echo positively with the third meeting of foreign ministers of the Afghan neighbouring countries, to further cement the consensus of all parties…to help Afghanistan achieve peace, stability and development at an early date”.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met individually with his counterparts from Russia, Pakistan and Qatar on Wednesday, according to Chinese state media.
Video showed Wang and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov bumping elbows in a pandemic-era handshake, but no details were given.
In his meeting with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Wang struck a defiant tone over the issue of Ukraine, over which China has been criticised for not condemning Moscow’s actions and amplifying Russian disinformation.
Countries should be “especially vigilant as to the negative spillover effects” of the crisis, Wang said.
“We must not allow the Cold War mentality to resurface in Asia or allow small and medium sized countries in the region to be used as tools or sacrificial objects in the games of great powers,” he said.
The foreign ministers of Qatar and Indonesia have been invited to the meeting of neighbouring states as guests. Taliban-appointed foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, will represent Afghanistan at the meeting.
Special Representative for Afghanistan Tom West will represent the US at the Extended Troika talks, the State Department said. Pakistan will also attend and China is believed to have also invited Taliban representatives, the spokesperson said on routine condition of anonymity.
The group’s interests are aligned on the need for the Taliban to live up to its commitments to build a truly inclusive government, not provide a safe haven for terrorism, remain stable, rebuild its economy and respect human rights, women’s rights and the rights of minorities, the spokesperson said.
China hasn’t recognised Afghanistan’s new hard-line government but has refrained from the harsh criticism made by the US.
The meetings are being held in Tunxi, an ancient town in Anhui province, possibly because of the relative ease of maintaining a “bubble” separate from the general population.
That would allow the attendees to avoid the 21-day coronavirus quarantine required of international travellers to the capital Beijing and other major Chinese cities.
A month before the Taliban took power; Wang hosted a high-powered delegation from the group for a July 28, 2021, meeting in the Chinese port city of Tianjin. Wang referred to the group as “pivotal” force important to peace and reconstruction in Afghanistan.