China has pressed the Taliban interim government in Afghanistan to "effectively" protect the rights of women and renewed its call for lifting international sanctions against the conflict-torn country to help it tackle a looming "economic chaos."
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi discussed the issues in two days of talks with Taliban leaders that concluded Tuesday in Doha, Qatar, officials said. Taliban officials said their high-level delegation included Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Ghani Baradar and Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi.
"China hopes that the Taliban can further demonstrate openness and inclusiveness, unite all ethnic groups and factions in Afghanistan to work together for peaceful reconstruction," a post-meeting Chinese statement quoted Wang as saying.
"[The Taliban] should effectively protect the rights and interests of women and children … and build a modern country that conforms to the wishes of the people and the trend of the times," Wang emphasized.
The Chinese chief diplomat urged the international community to support Afghanistan in dealing with "the humanitarian crisis, economic chaos, terrorist threats and governance difficulties," and in placing the country on a path of "sound" development.
"China urges the Western countries, led by the United States as a whole, to lift sanctions, and calls on all parties to engage with the Afghan Taliban in a rational and pragmatic manner," Wang added.
The Taliban regained control of the country in August, but they have been denied access to the Afghan central bank’s foreign assets of about $10 billion, mostly held by the U.S. Federal Reserve, over human rights and other concerns.
The restriction has raised the prospects of an economic meltdown in Afghanistan, where the United Nations says more than four decades of deadly conflicts and recurrent natural disasters have resulted in a protracted food crisis affecting millions.
U.N. officials have said Afghanistan is on its way to becoming the world’s "largest humanitarian crisis" this winter, as more than half of the population, nearly 23 million people, will face acute hunger unless urgent assistance arrives.
Tuesday’s statement quoted Baradar as assuring Wang the Taliban continue to take "inclusive measures" and recruit personnel of all Afghan ethnicities to participate in state governance in the future.
"The Afghan Taliban is willing to strengthen the efforts to protect the rights and interests of women and children and will not deprive them of the rights to education and work," Baradar said.
He informed the Chinese delegation that women in Afghan medical institutions, airports and other places have resumed their work, while girls in many provinces have returned to school.
Baradar noted that authorities still face difficulties, however, such as lack of facilities and funds, hoping increased international assistance can help overcome the challenges.
For their part, Taliban officials described the talks with Chinese officials as fruitful, saying the two sides reviewed bilateral diplomatic relations, trade and educational opportunities for Afghan students in China.
A Taliban spokesman said in a statement the two sides agreed "to hold joint meetings in the future and create mechanisms to further broaden cooperation" between Kabul and Beijing.
The spokesman added that China has pledged an additional $6 million worth of humanitarian assistance, including medicine and food. China already has pledged about $31 million worth of aid to Kabul, including food supplies.
Wang reiterated that Beijing "hopes and believes" the Taliban will "make a clean break" with the anti-China East Turkistan Islamic Movement [ETIM] and other terrorist organizations and will "resolutely crack down on them."
China blames ETIM militants for carrying out terrorist attacks, especially in its western Xinjiang region bordering Afghanistan. Operatives of the outlawed extremist group are known to have hideouts on the Afghan side.
Baradar was quoted as assuring Wang the Taliban attach "great importance" to Chinese security concerns and will "resolutely honor" their promise of not allowing "anyone or any force" to use Afghan soil to harm China.
Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in a joint appeal Tuesday urged the global community to urgently send humanitarian and economic aid to Afghanistan.
"They disused the situation in Afghanistan. They called on the international community to provide immediate humanitarian and economic assistance to the people of Afghanistan to alleviate their suffering, prevent instability and flight of people, as well as continued engagement for rebuilding of the country," Khan’s office said after his telephone call with Xi.