Taliban representative arrives in Beijing to attend Belt and Road Forum

By Joe Cash

BEIJING (Reuters) – The Taliban’s acting commerce minister Haji Nooruddin Azizi arrived in Beijing on Tuesday to attend the Belt and Road Forum, the Afghan embassy said, which is among the highest-profile summits it has been invited to since taking power in 2021.

Beijing has sought to grow its official ties with the Taliban administration ever since U.S. and other foreign forces withdrew from the country two years ago, despite its lack of formal recognition by any government. The impoverished country could offer a wealth of coveted mineral resources.

Azizi arrived at noon, an embassy spokesperson told Reuters by phone.

China’s Foreign Ministry said: “China has noted that the interim government of Afghanistan said it hopes to take the ride of the ‘Belt and Road’… and realise national stability and economic development as soon as possible”, when asked whether inviting the Taliban showed Beijing wanted to strengthen its ties with the diplomatically-isolated group.

Azizi will invite “large investors” to Afghanistan and continue discussions with Chinese officials on plans to build a road through the Wakhan corridor, a thin, mountainous strip in the country’s north, a commerce ministry spokesperson said.

China has also been in talks with the Taliban over plans, begun under the previous foreign-backed government, for a possible huge copper mine in eastern Afghanistan.

While Beijing’s ambassador presented his credentials to the Taliban’s acting prime minister last month, other nations have held back from any change of diplomatic representation that involves formally presenting credentials to the government.

(Reporting by Joe Cash and Ethan Wang; editing by Christina Fincher and Ed Osmond)