Leaders at a meeting of the China- and Russia-dominated Shanghai Cooperation Organization emphasized Friday the need for engaging with Taliban-led Afghanistan to prevent a looming humanitarian crisis and an economic collapse in the war-torn country.
The SCO summit in Tajikistan came a month after the Islamist Taliban swept back to power in Kabul as the United States-led Western troops withdrew, ending nearly two decades of involvement in the Afghan war.
China’s President Xi Jinping, speaking via video link to the security bloc, renewed his call for the Taliban to eradicate terrorism, while promising to provide more assistance to the neighboring country and calling on others to do so.
Chinese media quoted Xi as urging the participants “to promote the peaceful transition in Afghanistan, guide it to build an inclusive political structure, adopt prudent and moderate domestic and foreign policies, resolutely fight all forms of terrorism, live in amity with its neighbors.”
China and other neighbors of Afghanistan have been pressing the United States and its allies to supply the war-torn nation with economic and humanitarian aid rather than abandoning it.
Russian President Vladimir Putin also addressed the SCO summit via video link, stressing the need for working with the Taliban and for world powers to consider unfreezing Afghanistan’s assets kept in foreign banks.
The U.S. and other Western countries have pledged immediate humanitarian aid of more than $1.2 billion, but they are waiting to see whether the Taliban will uphold human rights, especially those of women, and stem terrorism before diplomatically engaging with the group.
The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have said Afghanistan will not have access to the lender's resources, halting developmental projects in the country.
The Taliban announced an all-male 33-member caretaker cabinet last week, which drew strong criticism at home and internationally for not being an inclusive political setup as has been promised by the Islamist movement.
“For their part, the Taliban must fulfill the pledges made above all for inclusive political structure where all ethnic groups are represented,” Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, whose country shares a long border with Afghanistan, told Friday’s summit.
“This is vital for Afghanistan’s stability. Also, it is important to ensure respect for the rights of all Afghans and ensure that Afghanistan is never again a safe haven for terrorists,” emphasized Khan, who personally attended the SCO meeting.
The Pakistani leader said it was “a matter of relief” for neighboring countries, in particular that the power transition in Kabul happened without significant bloodshed, without civil war and without a mass exodus of refugees.
The Russian president echoed Khan’s words while addressing the event.
“Indeed, the change of power took place almost bloodlessly, and this is undoubtedly a positive moment. The Taliban currently controls almost the entire territory of Afghanistan, and the new Afghan authorities should be encouraged to deliver on their own promises to make peace, normalize public life, and ensure security for all,” Russian media quoted Putin as saying.
The SCO comprises China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Afghanistan is an observer state, but it was not invited to Friday’s meeting because member nations have not recognized the Taliban government.
“The interim government named by the Taliban falls very short of the mark that was set by the international community for inclusivity, a government that was broadly representative of the Afghan people, not just the Taliban and its constituency, and to include women. It includes many key members who have very challenging track records,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a U.S. Congressional hearing Monday.
Several members in the Taliban cabinet are blacklisted by the United States and the United Nations.
But the Taliban interim foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, rejected the criticism as politically motivated, claiming they have installed a “fully inclusive government” and promising to uphold human rights of all Afghans and prevent the use of Afghanistan for terrorist attacks against other countries.
On the margins of the SCO meeting, foreign ministers of China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan met for further discussions on the situation in Afghanistan.
“They stressed the importance of engaging those states, which should bear primary responsibility for post-conflict social-economic reconstruction in Afghanistan and should provide Afghanistan with urgently needed economic, livelihood and humanitarian assistance,” said a post-meeting joint statement.