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China Ready To Mediate Stalled Afghan Peace Negotiations

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi

China has publically offered to help the Afghan government in reconciling with the Taliban insurgents.

Speaking to journalists in Islamabad on February 12, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Afghanistan's long-term stability depends on a "broad-based and inclusive national reconciliation" that requires international backing.

"We will support the Afghan government in realizing reconciliation with various political factions, including the Taliban," he said. "China is ready to play a constructive role and will provide the necessary facilitation at any time if required by various parties in Afghanistan."

The comments are seen as part of a major shift in Chinese foreign policy. For decades, Beijing resisted being pulled into the seemingly unending conflict in neighboring Afghanistan.

In recent years, however, China appears be concerned about Muslim Uyghur separatists from the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). Beijing sees the presence of these militants and their alliance with myriad Islamist militant factions in Afghanistan and Pakistan as a major threat to its security.

Hundreds have been killed in attacks in western China in recent years. Most attacks were attributed to Uyghur militants whose Xinjiang homeland in western China borders Pakistan and Afghanistan.

To counter this threat, Beijing appears to be taking a lead role in stabilizing Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It is the leading foreign investor in the two countries and has assumed a key diplomatic role in resolving Afghanistan's three-decades-old conflict.

Crucially in recent months, Beijing is reportedly leaning on its traditional ally Islamabad to give up its backing for the Afghan Taliban and help in reconciling them with Kabul.

"I have a strong sense that Pakistan takes the issue of Afghanistan very seriously and it has a strong will to take a constructive part in the resolution of this matter," Wang said.

Afghanistan and its Western backers have been trying to bring moderate Taliban figures to the negotiating table to end years of wars in the country.

Talks collapsed in 2013 after Taliban representatives angered Kabul by trying to open an office in Qatar.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP