ISLAMABAD: China has offered to facilitate a peace deal between the Afghan government and the Taliban in a move that suggests Beijing seeks a greater role in the country post the withdrawal of US and Nato forces.
“China is ready to play its constructive role and will provide necessary facilitation at any time if it is required by various parties in Afghanistan,” said China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Thursday. He was speaking at a joint news conference in Islamabad alongside Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s adviser on national security and foreign affairs, Sartaj Aziz.
Yi, who is on a two-day visit to Islamabad, said his country would support the Afghan government in reconciling with various political factions including the Taliban. He stressed that a broad-based inclusive national reconciliation was needed to ensure long term peace and stability in Afghanistan.
The Chinese foreign minister also underlined Pakistan’s important role in achieving the objective.
China has recently shown keen interest in expanding its role in neighboring Afghanistan. But this is the first time any senior Chinese official publicly offered to play a role in the Afghan reconciliation process.
Last month, the Taliban confirmed that they had sent a delegation to China but insisted that the visit was not meant for seeking China’s mediation.
‘China’s president to visit at an early date’
Following talks at the Foreign Office, Prime Minister’s Adviser Sartaj Aziz told reporters that both Islamabad and Beijing had agreed that China’s President Xi Jinping would visit Pakistan “at an early date this year.”
The visit was originally scheduled to take place in August last year but had to be cancelled due to political turmoil in Pakistan. The Chinese president is now likely to visit in March and is expected to attend the joint military parade on Pakistan Day.
Foreign Minister Yi said President Xi’s visit will further enhance the ‘all-weather’ friendship between the two countries.
The Chinese foreign minister also called on President Mamnoon Hussain and discussed with him a wide range of issues including counter-terrorism efforts.
According to an official statement, the president told the Chinese foreign minister that Pakistan is carrying out a comprehensive operation against all terrorists. Mamnoon Hussain said Operation Zarb-e-Azb has yielded positive results. He said Pakistani nation is waiting to receive Chinese President Xi Jinping. He said the government is ensuring foolproof security of Chinese workers in Pakistan, which it considers as its top priority.
Wang Yi on this occasion said both Pakistan and China have been keeping a close eye on evolving situation in the region. He said strategic partnership and economic cooperation between the two countries would enhance in coming days.