Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar and their Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi held their fourth China-sponsored trilateral meeting via video conference on Thursday.
Last month, Wang had held talks over telephone with the foreign ministers from Pakistan and Afghanistan.
A joint statement issued after the trilateral talks said, “The three sides underlined the importance of a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Afghanistan and called on all parties in Afghanistan for an early declaration of a comprehensive ceasefire and an end to the senseless violence, in order to create the conditions needed for negotiation between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban”.
They called for an orderly withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan to prevent the deterioration of the security situation there and the return of terrorist forces.
State-run Xinhua news agency in a report said the three countries stressed that the solution to the Afghan issue should fully reflect the principle of “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned”, support Afghanistan in becoming an “independent, sovereign and neutral country, pursue a moderate Muslim policy, firmly fight against terrorism, and maintain friendly ties with other countries, especially neighbouring countries”.
They also stressed the need to reject the “double standards” of anti-terrorism, to forbid any terrorist organisations or individuals from using their territories to engage in criminal activities against other countries.
They also urged strengthened efforts to combat the separatist East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and other terrorist forces, so as to safeguard regional security and stability, the Xinhua report said.
The trilateral meeting took place as China has stepped up its diplomacy with both Pakistan and Afghanistan to deal with the fallout of the US and NATO troops withdrawal which is already resulting in increasing incidents of violence in Afghanistan.
The US is preparing to wrap up its longest war by withdrawing the last of its 2,500-3,500 troops along with 7,000 allied NATO forces by September 11 at the latest.
Beijing seeks to carve out its Afghanistan policy, to safeguard its interests, especially the security of its Xinjiang region that shares a narrow border with Afghanistan.
Observers say China’s worries stem from Uygur Muslim militants from Xinjiang belonging to the separatist East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) who joined the Islamic State (IS) and fought in Syrian civil war returning to the volatile province which shares borders with Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), Afghanistan besides Central Asian States, Kyrgyztan and Kazakhstan.
China is currently battling the allegation of genocide against Uygur Muslims in Xinjiang levelled by the US, EU, Australia and other countries.
Significantly, ahead of the trilateral meet, Afghanistan said it favoured India, the US and China playing a role to restore peace in the country.
“Afghanistan being a stable country is in favour of countries such as the US, China and India,” Javid Ahmad Qaem, Afghanistan’s ambassador to China, was quoted as saying by state-run Global Times at a press conference with Chinese journalists here on Tuesday.
In an apparent reference to Afghanistan’s charge that Pakistan hosted the Taliban in its territory, Qaem said “it is more important how we and Pakistan can build trust and how China and India can build trust regarding Afghanistan regardless of other issues. It is about peace in the whole region,” he said.
A prominent advantage that China enjoys is that it has good relations with both Afghanistan and Pakistan and can play a critical role in building trust between these two neighbouring countries, and the trust is the real thing that will bring long-lasting peace in the region, Qaem said.
He also expressed confidence that the Afghan Army can deal with the Taliban after the US troop withdrawal. “Since 2014, we have been fighting by ourselves, except for some air support from the US for our national security forces,” he said.
He said around 1,500 Taliban fighters were killed by Afghan forces in May.
“We have 350,000 national security forces, among whom there are special forces. We don’t have any fear of losing ground. I don’t see a lot of changes along with the withdrawal,” he said.
The US and the Taliban signed a landmark deal in Doha on February 29, 2020 to bring lasting peace in war-torn Afghanistan and allow US troops to return home from America’s longest war.
Under the US-Taliban pact, the US has agreed to withdraw all its soldiers from Afghanistan in 14 months.
There are currently 2,500 American troops left in Afghanistan, the lowest level of American forces in the war-torn country since 2001.
Since the US-led invasion that ousted the Taliban after the September 11, 2001 attacks, America has spent more than USD 1 trillion in fighting and rebuilding in Afghanistan.
About 2,400 US soldiers have been killed, along with tens of thousands of Afghan troops, Taliban insurgents and Afghan civilians.