The Taliban and China solidified their ties Thursday, with a top official in the insurgent group calling the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) a “trustworthy friend.”
Deputy director of the Taliban’s office in Doha, Qatar Abdul Salam Hanafi said the Taliban will work with its neighboring country to allow China’s continued expansion of the Belt and Road Initiative.
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“China has been a trustworthy friend of Afghanistan,” Haffani said, according to a statement by the Chinese Foreign Ministry. “The Afghan Taliban is willing to continue to promote friendly relations between Afghanistan and China and will never allow any force to use Afghan territory to threaten China’s interests.”
In a phone conversation with Chinese assistant foreign minister Wu Jianghao, the Taliban official said the insurgent group would “take effective measures” to protect Chinese institutions and personnel residing in Afghanistan.
Chinese foreign minister Wang Webin dodged questions Friday on whether China will recognize the Taliban as the legitimate governing body in Afghanistan, following the nation’s collapse last month.
Instead, Webin said the Chinese government is “following closely” the evolving situation on the ground while noting that its embassy in Afghanistan plays an “important channel for China-Afghanistan exchanges” and is functioning normally.
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The Taliban’s partnership with China allows the PRC access to Afghanistan’s natural resources like copper and aluminum.
Afghanistan is believed to be a mineral-rich nation that some have estimated contains $1 trillion worth of untapped resources.
“The cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) advocated by China is conducive to the development and prosperity of Afghanistan and the region at large,” the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement following the call.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid during a Thursday interview echoed support for Chinese investment in Afghanistan.
“China is our most important partner and represents a fundamental and extraordinary opportunity for us, because it is ready to invest [in] and rebuild our country,” he said, according to the South China Morning Post.
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The Taliban “care a lot about the Belt and Road project,” the Taliban spokesman reportedly said. “We own rich copper mines, which, thanks to the Chinese, will be modernized.
“Finally, China represents our ticket to the markets around the world,” he added.
The Taliban are expected to formally establish a government in the coming days, though it remains unclear which nations will recognize them.