China acknowledges hosting Taliban's chief peace negotiator for talks

BEIJING: China on Thursday for the first time acknowledged that it recently hosted Afghan Taliban’s chief peace negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar for talks as part of its stepped-up efforts to enlarge its strategic role in Afghanistan and efforts to restore peace in the war-torn country.

Mullah Baradar, one of the four top commanders who formed the Taliban in 1994, was released from jail last year by the Pakistan government. He is believed to be the highest-ranking Afghan Taliban prisoner freed so far.

After his release from the jail, Mullah Bardar has been holding talks with US Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad.

China, a close ally of Pakistan, has been trying to iron out differences between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Afghanistan accuses Pakistan of providing safe haven to the Afghan Taliban, Haqqani network and other militant groups, which carry out attacks in the war-torn country.

The “head of Taliban political office in Doha, Bardar, visited China”, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told the media here Thursday.

“During his visit, the Chinese officials exchanged views with him on the peace and reconciliation process as well as the fight against terrorism,” he said.

Bardar was told about the constructive role being played by China in the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan, Lu said.

“We always support the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned extensive and inclusive peace and reconciliation as well as the internal dialogue among the Afghanis. So, we have made the position clear with the Taliban chief negotiator,” he said.

“This is an important part of our efforts to promote peace talks. Both sides agreed that the exchange is mutually beneficial and we also agreed to seek communication and cooperation for a political settlement of the Afghan issue. We will try and talk through various means and ways to play our due role in realising peace and reconciliation, stability and development in Afghanistan,” Lu said.

Mullah Baradar held several senior positions in the Taliban government before its fall in 2001. He was once considered the most influential Taliban leader after Mullah Muhammad Omar.

Asked what the Taliban wants to end the civil war in Afghanistan, Lu said, “I believe the relevant parties in Afghanistan who are committed to peace talks hope to resolve the internal situation in Afghanistan and achieve sustainable peace and reconciliation”.

“China is trying to promote the dialogue of Afghanis. Another issue is the joint fight against terrorism,” he said.

China has also been holding talks with India over the situation in Afghanistan.

China’s special envoy in Afghanistan Deng Xijun visited New Delhi in May last and held talks the top External Affairs Ministry, officials.

India and China also conducted a joint programme to train diplomats of Afghanistan. PTI