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Wednesday Jan 27, 2016

Pakistan has unique role in Afghan peace talks: China

Pakistan has unique role in Afghan peace talks: China

BEIJING: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Tuesday said Pakistan had a unique role in the Afghan peace talks and urged Pakistan to take part in the peace process with China which will play the role of a mediator in the talks.

In a joint press conference with his Afghan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani here, Wang said peace talks were the “right way towards enduring peace and tranquility” in Afghanistan.

China, which is part of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group, will join the United States, Pakistan and Afghanistan in a meeting of the group in Islamabad on February 6, reports the Chinese media.

The four nations will confirm a roadmap to restart the peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban to try to end the civil war in the country that has already dragged on for 15 years.

Given that peace in Afghanistan was crucial to the security and stability of the region, China hoped to strengthen communication with Russia, India, Iran and other countries for “synergy” in contributing towards the process of reconciliation, Wang said.

“China will continue to be the promoter, mediator and facilitator of the peace talks,” he said. Rabbani said the coordination group was more likely to work than previous peace attempts because it involved both China and the US.

“At the same time, we also call on all members of the Taliban groups to come to the negotiating table,” he said.  “We see that the Afghan problem can be solved only through peace and negotiation. There is no military solution.”

China’s long-standing ties with Pakistan meant Beijing had considerable leverage with the country, which played a hugely influential role in Afghanistan, and in particular the Afghan Taliban, according to Raffaello Pantucci, researcher at the Royal United Services Institute in London. But the close relationship also meant China had to maintain a subtle balance, he said.

“China’s biggest challenge would be to not step on Pakistani toes while supporting Afghanistan’s take on the matter,” said Richard Ghiasy, researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

“Afghanistan doesn’t have much ... to offer Pakistan in the [talks]. Rather, Pakistan could be ‘cornered’ if China stands with the US and Afghanistan on Pakistan’s role in fostering the Afghan Taliban.”

Afghanistan´s Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, left, shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.—Reuters photo
Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.—Reuters photo

Meanwhile, China also promised to provide Afghanistan with more economic aid in areas including low-cost housing, human talent development, and infrastructure planning. The two ministers also discussed the construction of a railway connecting China to Iran via Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, which would shorten transport distance between the countries by 900kms.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with his Afghan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani in Beijing. Rabbani is visiting China from Monday to Thursday to boost the bilateral ties. The two top diplomats greeted each other at the Chinese Foreign Ministry before sitting down for talks in the presence of their delegations.

Both countries attach great importance to the official visit. This is Rabbani’s first trip as Afghan foreign minister and the first high-level visit between China and Afghanistan this year.  Last year, the two countries celebrated the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties and their Year of Friendly Cooperation.—Originally published in The News

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