China Holds Meeting to Broker Peace in Afghan-Pakistan Conflict

(Bloomberg) -- China hosted top diplomats from Afghanistan and Pakistan on Tuesday in a bid to mediate a long-simmering conflict between the neighboring countries.

Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani and Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif joined their Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on Tuesday to discuss possible economic and security cooperation. The first trilateral minister-level dialogue in Beijing comes as China expands its economic interests in Pakistan.

“China, Afghanistan and Pakistan, as three neighbors, will naturally try to strengthen cooperation amongst each other,” Wang was quoted as saying by state broadcaster CCTV. “This is fully in accordance with our common interests, and is a good thing for us.”

The meeting highlighted China’s growing role in global hotspots as U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration embraces a more inward-looking foreign policy. President Xi Jinping has sought to present China as a responsible alternative to the U.S., shifting from a longstanding policy of keeping a low profile in international affairs.

Economic Corridor

China hoped the meeting could set up a communication platform for Afghanistan and Pakistan that would allow the two countries to build trust, enhance understanding and improve ties, Wang said, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

The three countries agreed to establish the mechanism during Wang’s visits to Kabul and Islamabad in June.

China is investing more than $50 billion in Pakistan to create an economic corridor that would link its remote western region to the Arabian sea. Beijing’s leaders have also boosted economic and trade ties with Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has accused Pakistan of providing a safe haven for Taliban militants looking to overthrow the U.S.-backed government in Kabul. Several rounds of meetings in the past few years between the U.S., China, Pakistan and Afghanistan failed to facilitate meaningful peace talks.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.