On March 30, Radio France Internationale (RFI) reported that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov arrived in China to participate in the third meeting of the foreign ministers of Afghanistan’s neighboring countries. The meeting was to be held in Tunxi, an ancient town in East China’s Anhui Province. At a press briefing held on the same day, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said, when answering a Reuters reporter’s questions: There is “no limit to China-Russia cooperation, no limit to our pursuit of peace and maintaining security, and no limit to our opposition to hegemony.” China-Russia relations are non-aligned, are not confrontational and do not-target any third country.
The foreign ministers of Pakistan, Iran, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan or their representatives will attend the meeting from Wednesday to Thursday. Qatar and Indonesia will attend as guests. Lavrov will participate in two multinational conferences on Afghanistan along with representatives from Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. This is his first visit to China since Moscow began its invasion of Ukraine last month.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the Russian Foreign Minister will also attend a separate Troika meeting with the Chinese and U.S. envoys on Afghanistan. Wang Wenbin said of the Troika meeting, “China, the United States, Russia and Pakistan are all countries with significant influence on the Afghan issue,”
Unlike many Western countries, China has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion into Ukraine and has lagged behind many others in providing humanitarian aid to Ukraine. Also, China does not recognize the Taliban government in Afghanistan, but has ignored harsh criticism from the United States and other countries. It has kept its embassy in Kabul open and has not commented on Taliban moves to restrict girls’ education and other human rights violations.
Successive Afghan governments have always regarded the country’s mineral resources – estimated at $1 trillion – as a key to a prosperous future, but none have been able to exploit them amid ongoing conflict and violence. Now, several countries including Iran, Russia and Turkey, are seeking to invest in order to fill the vacuum left by the U.S. withdrawal last year.
Alexander Cooley, a humanitarian Columbia University political scientist and expert on Central Asia stated that, at the week’s conference, China will seek to position itself as the leader in humanitarian aid and economic development programs in Afghanistan. It will also call publicly on the United States to unfreeze the Afghan government’s assets and accounts. Cooley told the Associated Press that, “China is quietly asserting itself as the leading outside force in the region.” “In doing so, it will position itself as a critic of the U.S. regional policy and as the alternative leader to the humanitarian coalition of Afganistan’s neighbors.”
Source: RFI March 30, 2022