China's foreign minister makes surprise stop in Afghanistan to meet Taliban rulers

Kabul: China's foreign minister made a surprise stop in Kabul on Thursday to meet Afghanistan's Taliban rulers, even as the international community fumes over the hardline movement's broken promise a day earlier to open schools to girls beyond Grade 6.

The official Bakhtar News Agency announced Wang Yi will meet with Taliban leaders to discuss various issues including the extension of political relations, economic, and transit cooperation.

The Taliban, who swept to power last August with the chaotic end to 20 years of war by a US and NATO coalition, have been seeking international recognition in order to open up their economy, which has been in free fall since their arrival.

China has not shown any inclination to recognize the Taliban government but it has avoided criticizing the new rulers, despite their repressive rules directed particularly at women, denying them unhindered access to work and school. China has, however, kept its Embassy in Kabul open and offered limited emergency assistance.

The US-led coalition unseated the Taliban in 2001 after they refused to hand over al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in America. They returned to power and installed an all male Taliban-only interim government. The international community has been urging them to open up the government to ethnic minorities, non -Taliban and women. Wang is one of the highest level visitors to Afghanistan since the Taliban's return. China, while refusing to offer recognition, has been engaging with the Taliban since their takeover.

China has economic and mining interests in Afghanistan and Afghans familiar with past talks between the Taliban and Chinese officials say Beijing wants Taliban commitments to prevent China's Uighur opponents from setting up operations in Afghanistan.

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