Kabul (AFP) – The Taliban said on Thursday they had assured Beijing’s top diplomat of any concerns that China could “emerge from Afghan soil”, ahead of a key meeting with their neighbors next week.
China shares only part of the border with Afghanistan, but Beijing has long feared its conflict-ridden neighbor could become a staging post for Uyghur Muslim separatists in Xinjiang.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrived in Kabul on Thursday for his first trip to Afghanistan since the Taliban took power, meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Ghani Baradar and Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi.
Without specifically mentioning the Uyghurs, Baradar’s office said in a statement that Wang had been assured of any concerns that Beijing “believes arise from Afghan soil.”
Since their return to power in August, the Taliban have repeatedly pledged not to allow Afghan soil to serve as a base for foreign terrorist groups.
Their hosting of Osama bin Laden and other senior al-Qaeda figures following the September 11 attacks prompted the US-led invasion that ended their first stint in power.
Even before the Taliban took control of the country in August, they forged ties with China as US-led foreign forces withdrew.
Beijing is hosting a meeting of Afghanistan’s neighbors next week on how to help the hardline Islamist government.
“The Islamic Emirate wants to further expand its ties” with China, Baradar’s statement said.
Wang and Muttaqi also talked about expanding “economic and political ties” between the two countries, the foreign ministry said in a tweet.
They also discussed the start of work in the mining sector in Afghanistan.
Chinese mining groups are in talks with the Taliban on exploring Afghanistan’s mining sector, according to media reports.
During Wang’s visit, Russia’s special envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov also arrived in Kabul for talks with Taliban officials, the foreign ministry said.
Afghanistan has plunged into financial and humanitarian crises since the departure of US-led foreign forces.
The meeting of Afghanistan’s neighbors next week will allow the Taliban to present their own assessment of the latest situation in the country.
According to media reports, Chinese and Pakistani officials are expected to discuss new economic projects in Afghanistan.
Maintaining stability after decades of war in Afghanistan is Beijing’s main concern as it seeks to secure its borders and strategic infrastructure investments in neighboring Pakistan, home to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
For Beijing, a stable and cooperative administration in Kabul would also pave the way for an expansion of its Belt and Road Initiative into Afghanistan and across Central Asian republics, analysts said.
The Taliban see China as a crucial source of investment and economic support, either directly or through Pakistan.
During the chaotic takeover by extremist Islamists, Beijing kept its embassy open in Kabul even as it evacuated many of the country’s citizens.
© 2022 AFP