China, US, Russia, Pakistan to hold talks on Afghanistan

A member of Taliban security forces stands guard in a street in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sept 4, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING/WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - A top US diplomat will meet this week in China to discuss issues in Afghanistan with his Chinese, Russian and Pakistani counterparts, the Chinese foreign ministry and the State Department said on Tuesday (March 29).

The United States understands that China has invited Taliban representatives to the talks in Tunxi, a State Department spokesperson said.

Chinese special envoy for Afghanistan Yue Xiaoyong will host the meeting, said Wang Wenbin, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman.

Tom West, the US special representative for Afghanistan, will attend the talks of the so-called Extended Troika: the three world powers plus Pakistan, the State Department spokesperson said.

The talks come against the backdrop of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and as Afghanistan suffers an economic and humanitarian crisis worsened by a financial aid cutoff following the Taliban takeover as US-led troops departed in August.

They also come amid widespread condemnation of the Taliban's U-turn last week on allowing girls to attend public high schools, which has sparked consternation among funders ahead of a key aid donors conference, a UN official said on Tuesday.

The retention of the ban prompted US officials to cancel talks in Doha with the Taliban and a State Department warning that Washington saw the decision as "a potential turning point in our engagement" with the militants.

The World Bank meanwhile put on hold four projects worth US$600 million (S$814 million) over concerns about the ban on school girls. The projects, to be funded by the revamped Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, were being readied for implementation by United Nations agencies to support projects in agriculture, education, health and livelihoods.

The United States believes that it shares with other Extended Troika members an interest in the Taliban making good on commitments to form an inclusive government, cooperate on counterterrorism and rebuild the Afghan economy, the State Department spokesperson said.

The meeting takes place while foreign ministers from Afghanistan's neighbours meet on Wednesday and Thursday in the eastern Chinese province of Anhui, Wang said.

That meeting will be chaired by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and attended by Afghan acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, and diplomats from Pakistan, Iran, Russia, Tajikstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Indonesia and Qatar.

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