Afghanistan peace envoys have reportedly talked with Taliban leaders during a clandestine meeting held in China. The Wall Street Journal has reported on the talks held in Urumqi, Xinjiang province, on May 19 and 20.
The alleged meeting, which was held to discuss the possibility of formal peace negotiations, was also attended by Chinese officials and representatives from Pakistan’s intelligence agency, ISI.
Due to its policy of non-interference, China has previously shown reluctance to involve itself in its neighbours’ affairs, resisting a conciliatory role in the Afghani conflict. Yet, since Xi Jinping came to power in late 2012, Beijing has intensified its diplomatic efforts in the region, receiving the Afghani President and Taliban in separate visits in 2014, as well as pledging over US$300 million in aid to Kabul until 2017.
The recent surge in diplomacy is believed to be in China’s national interests. Foreign Policy argues that China would expect to benefit from regional stability in at least two ways: to ensure internal stability by preventing infiltration of extremist elements into already restive frontier provinces; and to allow Afghanistan to act as a resource corridor, where Chinese investment in Afghani infrastructure could create a land bridge to connect Chinese consumers with raw materials from Central Asia and the Middle East.
A spokesman for the Taliban has denied reports of peace talks in Urumqi, writing in an email to VOA that “We strongly reject these rumors. The enemy wants to raise the spirits of its morale-lacking security personnel with such propaganda”.
Yesterday, video was released appearing to show a Chinese tourist who had been taken captive by the Taliban whilst biking around Pakistan last year; while another Chinese national managed to flee kidnappers who killed his three other Chinese companions in a 2013 attack in Kabul.
By Liam Bourke