Chinese FM lands in Kabul on unannounced visit after OIC moot

Afghanistan’s acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi received Yi on arrival in Kabul along with a high-level delegation.

The visit comes a week before Beijing hosts a two-day conference, on March 30-31, of Afghanistan’s neighbours on how to assist the Taliban government. Pakistan and Iran had earlier hosted similar meetings of these neighbouring countries after the Taliban takeover.

During the day-long visit, Yi held separate meetings with acting Afghan Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Ghani Baradar and FM Muttaqi, the officials said, adding that bilateral matters, economic cooperation and Chinese investment in Afghanistan were discussed during the meetings.

‘Afghan territory will not be used against any country’

According to Inamullah Samangani, deputy spokesperson of the Afghan government, Baradar assured the Chinese foreign minister that Afghan territory would not be used against any country.

In the past, China has expressed concern about the presence of members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which has been recognised as a terror outfit by the United Nations.

Samangani said both sides discussed the expansion of Afghanistan-China relations in several fields, including trade, transit and the economy.

In this regard, Samangani quoted Baradar as saying that Afghanistan and China had historical and friendly relations and that the two countries had stood together in difficult times.

“So it is very important that we strengthen and expand our relations,” Baradar said.

According to Samangani, Baradar told the Chinese foreign minister that Afghanistan was working to expand relations with all countries, especially China.

“And we thank China for its humanitarian assistance,” Baradar added.

‘China’s policy is not to interfere in Afghanistan’

Separately, Yi met Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, according to a statement by Abdul Qahar Balkhi, spokesperson for the Afghan foreign ministry.

The two foreign ministers exchanged views on politics, the economy, transit and air corridor, the statement said, adding that the export of dry fruits from Afghanistan to China, educational scholarships, issuance of visas, Afghanistan’s role in the Belt and Road Initiative and other matters of significance were also discussed.

Yi called his visit to Afghanistan a step towards strengthening comprehensive relations and said Afghan-China should be further enhanced and expanded, the statement shared by Balkhi on Twitter read.

Yi told Muttaqi that China had adopted a policy of non-interference in Afghan internal affairs and objected to the imposition of political and economic sanctions on the war-torn country.

He praised the changes made by and the security measure taken by the new Afghan government and highlighted the humanitarian, development and other assistance provided to Afghanistan, the statement said.

It added that Yi also underlined the importance of the upcoming meeting of foreign ministers from Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries and expressed pleasure over Muttaqi’s intent to participate in the meeting.

For his part, Muttaqi said the Chinese foreign minister’s visit to Afghanistan gave a “positive message” to Afghans and the world and appreciated China for its support and assistance.

He also extended his condolences over the loss of lives in a recent plane crash in China.

The Afghan foreign minister told his Chinese counterpart that the new Taliban government had taken measures to ensure security in the country and that this “existing security” would pave the way for foreign investment, including that from China.

He also raised the prospect of China working with Afghans on economic growth and stability, which Muttaqi said his government would fully support.

“We are committed to [pursuing] sincere cooperation with the People’s Republic of China, and ensuring peace and security in Afghanistan means peace and stability in the region,” he said, stressing that the Afghan territory would not be used against any country.

Yi’s visit is the first by a senior Chinese leader after the Taliban took control of Kabul in August and comes right after he completed his three-day visit to Islamabad where he attended the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s foreign minister’s conference, which ended yesterday, as a special guest.

FM Yi last visited Kabul in June 2017 after a huge truck bomb killed and injured many. He had tried to ease tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan after exchanges of fire in May 2017 had made relations tenuous.

The Chinese foreign minister’s visit might give a diplomatic boost to the Taliban government, which is yet to be recognised by any country.

China has been involved in the Afghan peace process after the US withdrew most of its troops in 2014. Taliban political representatives have paid several visits to China over the past few years.

Meeting with Russian delegation

The statement quoted Muttaqi as saying that Russia had utilised the opportunities created by the new Afghan government and extended assistance on several development projects.

“Muttaqi said the new government is focused on regional security and connectivity, and wants Afghanistan, as the heart of Asia, to play an important role in strengthening transit, trade, industry and economy … in the region,” the statement read.

The two sides called the meeting positive, expressing hope for an expedited and enduring series of practical cooperation, the statement added.

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