China to invest in long-term Afghanistan reconstruction plans with Taliban

Ambassador Wang Yu announces $8m in aid for devastating earthquake relief

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China's ambassador to Afghanistan publicly endorsed doing business with the Taliban on Tuesday in a rare press appearance, after an earthquake devastated the north of the country.

Wang Yu announced $8 million in aid for relief from the June 22 earthquake that killed more than 1,000 people and exposed the adverse effects that cuts to humanitarian aid and western sanctions have had.

He said: "Besides emergency humanitarian aid, after the political changes last year and after the earthquake, we also have long-term economic reconstruction plans. The priority would be trade, followed by investment, as well as agriculture."

No country has formally recognised the Taliban, which seized power last year after the United States and its allies withdrew troops abruptly following 20 years of war in Afghanistan.

Western countries say the sanctions, which included freezing billions of dollars in Afghan reserves, could be lifted only if the militants meet conditions such as lifting restrictions on participation in public life for women and girls. Some aid agencies have complained that sanctions curtailed their ability to assist after last month's earthquake.

China, which shares a remote border with Afghanistan and derives influence among its neighbours from its vast Belt and Road investment project, has consistently called for sanctions to be lifted.

The ambassador said negotiations were continuing concerning two major mining projects, including Mes Aynak, a copper mine in southern Afghanistan to which a Chinese state-owned company has rights under an arrangement brokered with the previous Afghan government. Afghanistan's largely untapped mineral reserves include vast amounts of iron ore and copper.

Taliban administration officials, including the group's Supreme Leader in a speech at a gathering last week, have said the country needs to become less dependent on aid and encourage business.

Speaking of Afghan reserves frozen in western banks, Mr Wang said: "China always thinks that money belongs to the Afghan people ... China has always called on the international community ... for the release of the funds."

Updated: July 05, 2022, 1:29 PM