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China vows to help Taliban ‘rebuild the country’ in Doha meeting

In this Oct. 20, 2021, file photo, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks during a promotional event for Tibet at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing. Wang will meet with Taliban representatives during a trip this week to the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar, an official said Monday, Oct. 25, 2021.Mark Schiefelbein/Associated Press

(Bloomberg) -- China pledged to help the Taliban “rebuild the country” while reiterating calls for the U.S. to lift sanctions against the new leaders of Afghanistan as the economy worsens.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made the remarks to a Taliban delegation in Doha, Qatar on Monday, during the first high-level meeting between Beijing and the Taliban since it formed an interim government in September. Wang said the international community should work with the Taliban “in a rational and pragmatic manner,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

China “supports the efforts to restore stability and rebuild the country,” Xinhua reported, citing Wang.

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The senior Chinese diplomat also stressed that the Taliban should “demonstrate openness and tolerance,” unite all ethnic groups and protect the rights of women and children, Xinhua said. Wang also said he believed the Taliban government would take effective measures to crack down on the East Turkestan Islamic Movement and other terrorist organizations that pose risks to China’s national security.

China has largely welcomed the Taliban’s return to rule, and has repeatedly expressed willingness to work with the new regime. A stable Afghanistan could open up opportunities to develop the country’s substantial mineral resources and give a boost to Beijing’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative. China is also counting on the Taliban to rein in radical Islamic terrorists that threaten Chinese interests both at home and abroad.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, acting deputy prime minister of the Taliban government, said the group aimed to strengthen cooperation with Beijing in various fields, and said that it would never allow anyone or any force to use the Afghan territory to harm China.

China’s failure to offer specifics on humanitarian aide suggests that “they are still not really committing,” said Raffaello Pantucci, senior associate fellow at Britain’s Royal United Services Institute.

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“Beijing is mostly focused on ensuring that there is a functional government in Kabul,” he said. “They worry that the economic crisis, humanitarian crisis and potentially escalating security crisis could tip into a mess which they are going to be stuck with.”

Wang is on a two-day visit to Qatar ahead of a trip to Europe, where he’ll visit Italy, Albania, Serbia and Greece.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.