Kabul/Shanghai, China, July 28 (EFE).- A group of Taliban leaders on a two-day visit to China met Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Wednesday for talks on Afghanistan security and the peace process.
Chief negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is leading the nine-member Taliban delegation in China “on an official invitation,” group spokesperson Naeem Wardak said in a statement.
Chinese foreign ministry said, in a statement, that Baradar and other Taliban delegates traveled to the northeastern city of Tianjin.
The statement said that Wang acknowledged that the Taliban was a “crucial military and political force” in Afghanistan.
He expressed the hope that they would play an “important role in the peace process.”
Wang stressed the unity of all factions and nationalities to strengthen the Afghanistan peace process.
“All factions and ethnic groups in Afghanistan should be united (to) implement the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned principle, work for early substantive results of the peace and reconciliation process,” the foreign ministry said.
“China hopes the Taliban will put Afghan national interests first, uphold commitment to peace talks, embrace the goal of peace, create a positive image and adopt an inclusive policy.”
The Taliban leaders also met with the deputy foreign minister and China’s special representative for Afghanistan, Wardak said.
The two sides held talks on “political, economic and security issues” and discussed “the ongoing situation in Afghanistan and the peace process,” said the Taliban spokesperson.
He said the Taliban leaders assured China that they would not allow the Afghan be used to disturb the security of any country.
“China vowed to expand and continue its assistance to the Afghan nation and said they will not interfer in Afghan affairs but help in solving problems and bringing peace,” said Wardak.
China and Afghanistan share some 60 km of the border in China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang, a predominantly Uighur region.
The security situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated after the UN and NATO troops began the final withdrawal from the war-ravaged country on May 1.
The Taliban have made massive territorial gains and captured 130 of over 400 Afghan districts in the last three months of heavy fighting.
The US in continuing air support to Afghan forces in their fight against the Taliban.
“The United States has increased air strikes in the support of Afghan forces over the last several days. We are prepared to continue this heightened level of support in the coming weeks if the Taliban continue their attacks,” General Kenneth McKenzie of the US Central Command said over the weekend.
Most of these strikes took place in support of Afghan forces in southern Kandahar province, where fighting has been underway between Afghan forces and the Taliban for the past several weeks.
McKenzie was in Kabul to meet with President Ashraf Ghani and Afghan security leaders, following a sharp rise in Taliban attacks throughout the country in recent months.
The Afghan government is now working on a six-month security plan to slow down the Taliban advances and gradually go from a defensive to an offensive posture to recapture the lost territory. EFE