BEIJING (AP) — Chinese leader Xi Jinping expressed strong support for Afghanistan at a regional conference on Thursday, without mentioning human rights abuses by the country’s Taliban leaders.
Xi pledged China’s support in a message to a gathering of representatives from Afghanistan, China, Russia, Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan in a central Chinese city, highlighting Beijing’s aspirations to take a leading role in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of US forces to play last August.
Afghans are striving for a “peaceful, stable, developed and prosperous Afghanistan” that “serves the common interests of regional countries and the international community,” Xi said.
“China has always respected Afghanistan’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, and is determined to support Afghanistan’s peaceful and stable development,” Xi said in his message to the assembly in Tunxi, a tourism industry hub in Anhui province.
Xi did not specify, although China has already sent emergency aid to Afghanistan and plans to develop copper mining there.
China has followed what it calls a strict policy of “non-interference” in other countries’ internal affairs, including opposing those staged for humanitarian purposes unless authorized by the United Nations. Despite this, Beijing is often accused of interfering to further its own national and international interests.
Special envoys to Afghanistan from China, the United States and Russia, a group known as the “Enlarged Troika”. also met simultaneously in Tunxi.
Although China has yet to recognize the Taliban government, it has acted quickly to strengthen its ties with the radical Islamist group.
A month before the Taliban took power, Foreign Minister Wang Yi received a high-profile delegation from the group for a meeting on July 28, 2021 in the Chinese port city of Tianjin. Wang described the group as a “key” force important to peace and reconstruction in Afghanistan.
On this and other occasions, the Chinese have pressed the Taliban for assurances that they will not allow operations within Afghanistan’s borders by members of China’s Turkish-Muslim Uighur minority aimed at overthrowing Chinese rule in their home region of Xinjiang.
Wang also made a surprise stop in Kabul last week to meet Taliban leaders, even as the international community was furious at the hard-line movement’s broken promise a day earlier to open schools to girls past sixth grade.
China has carefully avoided mentioning the limits of girls’ education and other human rights abuses, particularly those targeting women, while keeping its embassy in Kabul open.
The foreign ministers of Qatar and Indonesia have been invited as guests to the meeting of neighboring countries. The Taliban-appointed Foreign Minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, will represent Afghanistan at the meeting.