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China, NATO Discuss Afghanistan        09/28 06:01

   China's top diplomat has held a virtual meeting with NATO's chief to discuss 
the situation in Afghanistan, amid longstanding disagreements between Beijing 
and the U.S.-led alliance over regional policies.

   BEIJING (AP) -- China's top diplomat has held a virtual meeting with NATO's 
chief to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, amid longstanding disagreements 
between Beijing and the U.S.-led alliance over regional policies.

   The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that the discussions had been 
"positive and constructive". Foreign Minister Wang Yi and NATO Secretary 
General Jens Stoltenberg had spoken the previous day, according to the 
statement, focusing on "issues of common concern."

   Chinese officials gave no further details of the talks.

   Beijing long opposed the presence of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan -- 
with which it shares a narrow border -- while benefiting from the relative 
stability that presence provided. It has been strongly critical of the 
shambolic U.S. withdrawal that paved the way for the Taliban sweeping to power, 
calling it hasty and irresponsible.

   Beijing said the two officials speaking Monday agreed to "raise the standard 
of dialogue to advance practical cooperation" between China and NATO on issues 
including counterterrorism, anti-piracy, cyber security and international 
peacekeeping.

   Stoltenberg told China's foreign minister that the alliance "went into 
Afghanistan to ensure the country did not serve again as a platform for 
terrorists," according to NATO's press release Monday, adding that no attacks 
against China or alliance members had been organized from the country since 
2001.

   Stoltenberg also stressed in the meeting the importance of a "coordinated 
international approach, including with countries from the region, to hold the 
Taliban accountable for their commitments on countering terrorism and upholding 
human rights, not least the rights of women."

   China has kept open its embassy in Kabul and maintained dialogue with the 
Taliban group, including hosting a delegation in July led by top leader Abdul 
Ghani Baradar.

   At that meeting, Wang referred to the Taliban as "a pivotal military and 
political force in Afghanistan" that is "expected to play an important role in 
the in process of peace, reconciliation and reconstruction."

   Beijing has also called on the Taliban to uphold its pledge to restrain 
militants seeking independence for the traditionally Muslim northwestern region 
of Xinjiang. Wang has urged the group to keep border crossings open, while 
offering $31 million in humanitarian assistance, along with 3 million doses of 
Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccines.

   China has also previously signed deals for oil, gas and copper mining in 
Afghanistan, although those have long been dormant.

   Apart from calls to fight terrorism, China has said virtually nothing about 
the Taliban's approach to human and women's rights. It has condemned foreign 
intervention in the country and has shown little enthusiasm for establishing a 
major economic presence.

   While pledging cooperation with NATO, Wang criticized the dispatch of planes 
and ships from member states to areas near China's borders, saying "the 
Asia-Pacific region does not need new military groups, nor should it involve a 
confrontation between great powers, even less a small circle designed to incite 
a new Cold War."

   Stoltenberg said the alliance "does not see China as an adversary, but 
called on China to uphold its international commitments and act responsibly in 
the international system," the NATO news release said.

   He also raised NATO's concerns over China's "coercive policies, expanding 
nuclear arsenal and lack of transparency on its military modernisation," the 
release added.

 
 
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