ISLAMABAD - A visiting Afghan Taliban delegation held talks with senior officials in China Sunday to discuss the Islamist insurgent group’s now defunct peace negotiations with the United States.
The insurgent visit comes two weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump had abruptly called off his administration’s months-long peace talks, citing ongoing Taliban deadly attacks in Afghanistan.
The two adversaries were believed to be on the verge of signing an agreement to end the 18-year-old Afghan war before Trump declared the peace process as “dead.”
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said the nine-member delegation has traveled to Beijing under the leadership of Mullah Baradar, the head of the group’s political office in Qatar, which hosted the U.S.-Taliban talks.
The visitors’ opened their tour with a meeting Sunday with Chinese special envoy for Afghanistan, Deng Xijun, the Taliban spokesman said.
“The Chinese special representative said the U.S.-Taliban deal is a good framework for the peaceful solution of the Afghan issue and they support it,” Shaheen noted.
He quoted Baradar as telling the Chinese host the Taliban had initiated the talks with the U.S. and a “comprehensive deal” was also concluded.
“Now, if the American president cannot uphold his words and promises, then the responsibility for further destruction and bloodshed in Afghanistan rests on his shoulders,” Baradar said.
There were was no immediate comments available from Chinese officials about their meetings with the Taliban delegation.
On Friday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman while addressing his regular news conference in Beijing had called for restarting the stalled U.S.-Taliban peace process.
“We stand ready to enhance coordination and cooperation with all parties concerned to contribute to the national reconciliation, peace and stability in Afghanistan at an early date,” said Geng Shuang.
Prior to their visit to China, the Taliban had sent its political representatives to Russia and Iran to discuss developments that had stemmed from President Trump's cancellation of the talks with insurgents.
Shaheen, who is part of the delegation visiting Beijing, said that Moscow and Tehran both have also supported the Taliban’s efforts for promoting peace and security in Afghanistan.
The insurgent group’s diplomatic efforts come as Afghanistan is set to hold its fourth presidential election later this week, amid allegations incumbent President Ashraf Ghani, who is seeking reelection, is using state resources to run his campaign. Ghani's campaign team has rejected the charges.
The Taliban has threatened to launch violent attacks on election-related activities to disrupt the September 28 vote. An insurgent suicide bomber targeted an election rally Ghani was addressing last week in the northern Parwan province that killed around 30 people and injured many more.