by Abdullah Hasrat
The Taliban said Thursday they had assured Beijing’s most senior diplomat about any concerns China thinks may “emerge from Afghan soil”, ahead of a key meeting with their neighbours next week.
China shares only a sliver of a border with Afghanistan, but Beijing has long feared its conflict-plagued neighbour could become a staging point for Muslim Uyghur separatists from Xinjiang.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrived in Kabul Thursday on his first trip to Afghanistan since the Taliban seized power, meeting 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 over all concerns Beijing “thinks emerge from the soil of Afghanistan.”
Since returning to power in August, the Taliban have repeatedly pledged not to allow Afghan soil to be used as a base for foreign terror groups.
Their harbouring of Osama bin Laden and other senior Al-Qaeda figures in the wake of the 9/11 attacks prompted the US-led invasion that ended their first stint in power.
Even before the Taliban seized 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 neighbours next week on how to assist the hardline Islamist government.
“The Islamic Emirate wants to expand ties further” with China, Baradar’s statement said.
Wang and Muttaqi also spoke of expanding “economic and political ties” between the two countries, the foreign ministry said in a tweet.
They also discussed commencing work in Afghanistan’s mines sector.
Chinese mining groups are in talks with the Taliban on exploring Afghanistan’s mining sector, media reports say.
As Wang visited, 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 exit of US-led foreign forces.
The meeting of Afghanistan’s neighbours next week will allow the Taliban to present their own assessment of the latest situation in the country.
Media reports say 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 consideration as it seeks to secure its borders and strategic infrastructure investments in neighbouring 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 through the Central Asian republics, analysts say.
The Taliban consider China a crucial source of investment and economic support, either directly or via Pakistan.
During the chaotic takeover of power by the hardline Islamists, Beijing kept its embassy open in Kabul even as it evacuated many citizens from the country.
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