China on Tuesday hosted top Afghan and Pakistani officials in a bid to mediate a long-simmering conflict between Kabul and Islamabad.
The trilateral meeting was held between Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
The three officials discussed ways to encourage economic and security cooperation.
The first trilateral minister-level dialogue in Beijing comes as China expands its economic interests in Pakistan.
“China, Afghanistan and Pakistan, as three neighbors, will naturally try to strengthen cooperation amongst each other,” Wang was quoted as saying by state broadcaster CCTV. “This is fully in accordance with our common interests, and is a good thing for us.”
“We have agreed to help Afghanistan in peace process and to improve relations between Kabul and Islamabad. Pakistan will take practical action over the Afghan peace process, He said at the joint press conference.
“We called on Taliban to join the peace process and Pakistan has announced their support for peace talks between Taliban and Afghan government. China will also support the Afghan peace process,” he added.
“We will also continue our fight against the terrorists. Extremism must not be active in this region,” he noted.
He pointed out that: “Good relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan is in the interests of their people and also the region. China aims to improve relations between the two countries. We will also be present at the Kabul Process meeting which is going to be held in February.”
Rabbani meanwhile said at the conference that the Afghan government is committed to cooperating with China because the country respects the Afghan government.
“We will continue our efforts to fight terrorism. Fighting terrorism needs joint cooperation. We believe this will improve our relations with Pakistan to fight common threats,” he said.
“This meeting is a different one - it was the initiative of the Chinese President. In Kabul Process meeting which is going to be held in February, we will discuss what decisions need to be made,” he said.
Pakistan’s Asif also said that Afghanistan and Pakistan are two “strong brothers”. He said Pakistan border management to be carried out and refugee issues resolved.
“Peace in Afghanistan is a need for Pakistan,” he said.
The meeting highlighted China’s growing role in global hotspots as US President Donald Trump’s administration embraces a more inward-looking foreign policy.
China’s media reported that President Xi Jinping has sought to present China as a responsible alternative to the US, shifting from a longstanding policy of keeping a low profile in international affairs.
China hoped the meeting could set up a communication platform for Afghanistan and Pakistan that would allow the two countries to build trust, enhance understanding and improve ties, Wang said, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
The three countries agreed to establish the mechanism during Wang’s visit to Kabul and Islamabad in June.
China is investing more than $50 billion in Pakistan to create an economic corridor that would link its remote western region to the Arabian sea. Beijing’s leaders have also boosted economic and trade ties with Afghanistan, Xinhua reported.
Several rounds of meetings in the past few years between the US, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan failed to facilitate meaningful peace talks.