China says it will maintain communication with new Afghan government

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – China said on Wednesday (Sept 8) it is ready to maintain communication with the leaders of the new Taliban government in Afghanistan, calling its establishment a “necessary step” in reconstruction.

Foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin made the comment at a daily briefing in Beijing when asked if China would recognise the new government, whose leaders were named on Tuesday.

The Taliban drew from its inner high echelons to fill top posts in Afghanistan’s new government, including an associate of the Islamist militant group’s founder as premier and a wanted man on a US terrorism list as interior minister.

China respects the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Afghanistan, Mr Wang said.

After the Taliban took power in August, China had called for an “open and inclusive” government to be established.

“We hope the new Afghanistan authorities will listen broadly to people of all races and factions, so as to meet the aspirations of its own peoples and the expectations of the international community,” said Mr Wang.

United States President Joe Biden had said on Tuesday he was certain China would try to work out an arrangement with the Taliban after the Islamic insurgents seized power in Afghanistan on Aug 15.

Asked if he was worried that China would fund the group, which is sanctioned under US law, Mr Biden told reporters: “China has a real problem with the Taliban. So, they’re going to try to work out some arrangement with the Taliban, I’m sure. As does Pakistan, as does Russia, as does Iran. They’re all trying to figure out what do they do now.”

The US and its Group of Seven allies have agreed to coordinate their response to the Taliban, and Washington has blocked the Taliban’s access to Afghanistan’s reserves, most of which are held by the New York Federal Reserve, to ensure they live up to their pledges to respect women’s rights and international law.

But experts say much of that economic leverage will be lost if China, Russia or other countries provide funds to the Taliban.

Italy, current president of the Group of 20 (G-20) major economies – which include China and Russia – has been trying to set up a virtual G-20 meeting on Afghanistan, but no date has been announced, suggesting discord among the group.

Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a phone call on Aug 29 that the international community should engage with the Taliban and “positively guide” them.

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