China’s foreign minister met with a Taliban delegation Wednesday as ties between the two warm ahead of the pullout of US forces from Afghanistan.
A photo posted on the ministry’s website showed Wang Yi posing with senior Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and his officials in the city of Tianjin before they sat down for talks.
The display of friendliness had the appearance of a diplomatic mission at a time when the terror group is hungry for legitimacy.
Wang said Beijing respects Afghan independence and territorial integrity and always adheres to non-interference in the country’s internal affairs, adding that the hasty withdrawal of the US and NATO “reveals the failure of America’s policies and offers the Afghan people an important opportunity to stabilize and develop their own country.”
No agenda was announced ahead of the meeting, but Beijing has an interest in pushing the Taliban to deliver on peace talks or at least reduce the level of violence as they claim territory from Afghan forces.
China has long been worried about a possible spillover of Islamic militancy into its formerly volatile Xinjiang region.
“The Taliban are a pivotal military and political force in Afghanistan and are expected to play an important role in the process of peace, reconciliation and reconstruction,” Wang said.
He said China hopes the Taliban will put the nation’s and the people’s interests first and focus on peace talks, set peace goals and work for unity among all factions and ethnic groups.
The American withdrawal by Aug. 31 is seen as a boon to China, Washington’s chief strategic competitor, which has long resented the presence of US forces in what it views as its own backyard.
If the Taliban do topple the US-backed government, China could gain a strategic corridor allowing it and allied Pakistan to bring further pressure against common rival India.
While the Tianjin meeting could be viewed as a snub of the US, Washington has been meeting with China and Russia to produce statements calling on the Taliban to enter into a peace deal.
After Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman met Wang in Tianjin this week, she and the State Department included Afghanistan on the list of “areas of global interest” on which the US and China could cooperate.
With Post wires