Xi Jinping firmly backs Afghanistan at regional conference

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 leadership. China’s foreign minister, meanwhile, called on the United States to unfreeze Afghan assets held overseas and end sanctions against the government.

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 city in central China. China, underscoring Beijing’s aspirations to play a leading role in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of US forces. last August.

A “peaceful, stable, developed and prosperous Afghanistan” is what Afghans aspire to, which “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 committed to supporting the peaceful and stable development of Afghanistan,” Xi said in his message to the rally in Tunxi. , a center of Anhui Province’s tourism industry.

A joint statement released after the meeting stressed the importance of ensuring women’s rights and children’s education and protecting the rights of all ethnic groups. He also “urged the countries primarily responsible for the current difficult situation in Afghanistan” to meet their commitments to economic recovery.

China’s foreign ministry said the parties agreed that the United States and NATO should “seriously shoulder the primary responsibility for the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan, and return the property of the Afghan people as soon as possible.” “, in reference to the $7 billion in frozen funds. Afghan assets held by the United States

President Joe Biden has said his administration will release $3.5 billion from those funds. for the families of 9/11 victims against fierce protests by the Taliban and others.

The Afghan economy is on the verge of collapse after international money stopped flowing into the country with the arrival of the Taliban. The United Nations warns that one million children are at risk of starvation and that 90% of Afghans live below the poverty line of just $1.90 a day.

In his comments, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi continued Beijing’s attacks on the US over its handling of Afghanistan, saying that as the “initiator of Afghanistan’s predicament Washington should “take primary responsibility,” end its unilateral sanctions against the country, and unconditionally return Afghan state property.

Afghanistan has achieved “some partial results” in enhancing stability, improving livelihoods and protecting human rights, Wang said, despite widespread reports of abuses and a incompetent governance under the Taliban.

However, Afghanistan “has a long way to go to achieve lasting peace, sustainable development and to advance its external relations”, he said.

Neither Xi nor Wang gave details of future assistance from China, although China has already sent emergency aid to Afghanistan and is seeking to develop copper mining there.

China follows what it calls a strict policy of “non-intervention” in the internal affairs of other countries, including opposing those organized for humanitarian purposes unless sanctioned by the United Nations. Despite this, Beijing is frequently accused of meddling with its own national and international interests.

Separately, Wang also attended a meeting of special envoys for Afghanistan from China, the United States and Russia, a group known as the “extended troika”..” At the forum, Wang again called for an end to “unreasonable” sanctions and the unfreezing of Afghan assets, saying the United States should take “practical steps” on these issues.

Although it has yet to recognize the Taliban government, China has moved quickly to strengthen its ties with the radical Islamist group.

A month before the Taliban took power, Wang hosted a high-level delegation of the group for a meeting on July 28, 2021 in the Chinese port city of Tianjin. He called the group an important “pivotal” force for peace and reconstruction in Afghanistan.

On this and other occasions, the Chinese pushed the Taliban for assurances that they would not allow operations within Afghanistan’s borders by members of the Turkish Muslim Uyghur minority willing to overthrow the Chinese regime in their home region of Xinjiang.

Wang also made a surprise stopover in Kabul last week to meet with Taliban leaders, even as the international community fumed over the radical movement’s broken promise a day earlier to open schools for girls beyond sixth grade.

China has carefully avoided mentioning limits on girls’ education and other human rights violations, especially those targeting women, while keeping its embassy in Kabul open.

The foreign ministers of Qatar and Indonesia were invited to the meeting of neighboring states as guests. Taliban-appointed Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi is representing Afghanistan at the meeting.

The participants agreed on a mechanism of regular meetings of their special envoys for Afghanistan and three working groups to coordinate political and diplomatic affairs, economy and humanitarian, security and stability.

Uzbekistan will host the fourth meeting of foreign ministers.

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