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Chinese Foreign Minister pays surprise visit to Afghanistan

The Chinese Foreign Minister’s visit to Afghanistan on March 24 was not announced by the parties ahead of schedule and only announced when it arrived.

Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Ghani Baradar and Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi of Afghanistan’s interim government welcome Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Kabul on March 24. China’s foreign minister arrives in Afghanistan on a tour of South Asia, ahead of his visit to India.

Wang is the top Chinese official to visit Afghanistan since the Taliban took power in August 2021. Neither side has announced a schedule beforehand. The information became public only after the Chinese diplomat arrived, via a tweet from Ahmad Yasir, a senior official in the Taliban government.

Afghanistan's Taliban-appointed foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi (L), receives his colleague Wang Yi on March 24 in Kabul.  Photo: AFP.

Taliban-appointed Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi (L) receives Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on March 24 in Kabul. Photo: Taliban.

China and Afghanistan share a 76 km border. Following the talks, the Taliban released a statement saying that China’s foreign minister had been reassured of Beijing’s concerns “thoughts might emerge from Afghan territory”. Baradar stressed that Afghanistan under Taliban rule “wants to further strengthen ties” with China.

Afghanistan’s foreign ministry said the two sides discussed expanding “economic and political ties”. Wang also discussed with Taliban officials about mining in Afghanistan, which is an investment direction many Chinese companies are interested in. Afghanistan has the world’s largest untapped reserves of copper, coal, iron, gas, cobalt, mercury, gold, lithium and thorium, with an estimated value of about one trillion dollars.

After last year’s security and political upheaval, Afghanistan is in a serious crisis. The country is on the verge of a humanitarian disaster due to a shortage of international aid and unable to access billions of dollars worth of foreign assets due to the Western blockade.

Unemployment rose, while most civil servants owed months of wages. The United Nations has warned that some 16 million people in Afghanistan are at risk of food shortages due to widespread poverty and crop failures in many areas.

No country in the world officially recognizes the Taliban rule in Afghanistan. The international community is still following developments in the South Asian country, especially the human rights situation under the leadership of the Taliban.

Beijing is expected to hold meetings with some of Afghanistan’s neighbors next week on humanitarian aid to the country. Pakistan and China are considered by observers to be discussing several economic projects in Afghanistan soon.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was the first to visit Kabul last November and is so far the only head of state to do so. Britain’s special envoy for Hunger Prevention and Humanitarian Affairs and Britain’s special envoy to Afghanistan held talks with the Taliban last month. On March 24, Russia’s special envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov also arrived in Kabul to meet with Taliban officials.

Trung Nhan (Based on AFP, SCMP)

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