Taliban in China to discuss Afghan peace after US talks collapse

Afghan delegation and Chinese officials exchange views on ‘process of advancing peace in Afghanistan’, Beijing says.

The Afghan delegation that met Chinese foreign ministry officials was led by Mullah Baradar, left [File: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP]

A Taliban delegation has met Chinese officials in Beijing to discuss peace efforts in Afghanistan.

The meeting on Sunday came two weeks after US President Donald Trump abruptly cancelled months-long talks between US officials and the armed group, which controls large parts of Afghanistan.

These negotiations, which began in October 2018 in Qatar‘s capital, Doha, were aimed at ending Afghanistan’s 18-year-old war.

On Monday, Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, said the Taliban delegation and ministry officials exchanged views on the “process of advancing peace in Afghanistan”, without giving further details.

Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesman in Qatar, said in a tweet that the group’s nine-member delegation, led by cofounder Mullah Baradar, travelled to Beijing and met Deng Xijun, China’s special representative for Afghanistan.

“The Chinese special representative said the US-Taliban deal is a good framework for the peaceful solution of the Afghan issue and they support it,” Shaheen wrote on Twitter.

The meeting in China’s capital came 10 days after a Taliban delegation held talks with Russian officials in Moscow.

‘Trump responsible’

In early September, after nine rounds of US-Taliban negotiations in Doha, US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said a peace agreement was finalised “in principle”.

But on September 8, Trump said he had cancelled secret meetings at the Camp David presidential retreat with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Taliban leaders, following a car bomb attack in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul.

“They are dead. They are dead. As far as I’m concerned, they are dead,” Trump said of the peace talks.

At the time, the Taliban said Trump’s move came as a surprise to the group as the negotiations had concluded “successfully” and a deal was to be announced soon. 

“Now, if the US president cannot stay committed to his words and breaks his promise, then he is responsible for any kind of distraction and bloodshed in Afghanistan,” Baradar was quoted as saying by Shaheen on Monday.

Elections at critical time

Afghanistan is due to hold this week its fourth presidential elections since US-led forces toppled the Taliban from power in 2001.

The September 28 vote has gained importance since the collapse of the peace talks, as the negotiations could have led to the creation of an interim government – now a more distant prospect.

In June, before the peace talks fell apart, another Taliban team went to China to meet the government.

China’s far western Chinese region of Xinjiang shares a short border with Afghanistan.

The country has long been worried about links between armed groups and what it says are “Islamist extremists” operating in Xinjiang, home to the mostly-Muslim Uighur people.

China, a close ally of Pakistan, has been deepening its economic and political ties with Kabul and is also using its influence to try to bring the two uneasy neighbours closer.

Source: News Agencies