China to keep embassy in Afghanistan, increase humanitarian aid, says Taliban spokesman

Published September 3, 2021
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen leaves after a news conference in Moscow, Russia on July 9. — Reuters/File
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen leaves after a news conference in Moscow, Russia on July 9. — Reuters/File

A Taliban spokesman said on Friday that China has promised to keep its embassy in Afghanistan open and to increase humanitarian aid to the war-ravaged country.

Abdul Salam Hanafi, a member of the group's political office in Doha, Qatar, “held a phone conversation with Wu Jianghao, Deputy Foreign Minister of the People's Republic of China,” spokesman Suhail Shaheen said on Twitter.

“The Chinese deputy foreign minister said that they would maintain their embassy in Kabul, adding our relations would beef up as compared to the past. Afghanistan can play an important role in [the] security and development of the region,” he said.

“China will also continue and increase its humanitarian assistance especially for [the] treatment of Covid-19,” the spokesman continued.

There was no immediate confirmation from Beijing.

Much of the world has adopted a wait-and-see approach to engagement with the Taliban as they shift gears from an insurgent group to governing power.

But China has repeatedly slammed what it sees as a hasty and ill-planned withdrawal from Afghanistan by the United States and has said it is ready to deepen “friendly and cooperative” relations with the Taliban following their takeover.

China's embassy in Kabul remains operational, although Beijing began evacuating Chinese citizens from the country months ago as security deteriorated.

But Beijing has not yet recognised the Taliban as the de facto government and is wary of the group providing support to Uighur separatists looking to infiltrate its sensitive border region of Xinjiang.

For Beijing, a stable and cooperative administration in Kabul would pave the way for an expansion of its overseas infrastructure drive, analysts say.

The Taliban, meanwhile, may consider China a crucial source of investment and economic support.

Chinese companies have also been eyeing Afghanistan's vast copper and lithium mines, but experts say the perilous security situation means any immediate commodities rush by investors is unlikely.

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