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China, Russia meet to discuss Ukraine, Afghanistan

March 30, 2022

Beijing and Moscow have agreed to broaden bilateral cooperation and speak on global affairs "with a united voice," Russia said after talks between both countries' foreign ministers.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi
It was Wang's first in-person meeting with Lavrov since Moscow began its invasion of UkraineImage: Russian Foreign Ministry/Tass/imago images

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Wednesday held talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in the eastern Chinese province of Anhui, where China was set to host two days of meetings on Afghanistan.  

During their meeting, both sides agreed to deepen their cooperation and speak on global affairs "with a united voice," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Wang said that Chinese and Russian relations had "withstood the test of international turbulence" and continued to develop "resiliently," China's Phoenix TV reported.

It was Wang's first in-person meeting with Lavrov since Moscow began its invasion of Ukraine.

'No limit to China-Russia cooperation'

Unlike many Western nations, Beijing has refused to condemn Moscow's military aggression, instead blaming the West for the crisis.

Western powers say they are concerned China could provide military aid to Russia as well as help Moscow evade financial sanctions.

"The ministers had a thorough exchange of views on the situation around Ukraine," the Russian Foreign Ministry said, adding that both sides "noted the counterproductive nature" of the Western sanctions imposed in the wake of the invasion.

Russia looks to China to secure its future

In recent years, ties between China and Russia have grown increasingly closer. Days before Russia began its war on Ukraine, Russian and Chinese leaders declared the bilateral relationship knew "no limits."

"There is no limit to China-Russia cooperation, no limit to our efforts to achieve peace, safeguard security and oppose hegemony," a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman told a media briefing in Beijing.

"China-Russia relations are non-aligned, non-confrontational and not targeted at any third party," the spokesman added.

Asian leaders address Afghanistan's economic and humanitarian crisis

The tensions over Ukraine have overshadowed the two-day talks in China about Afghanistan.

Wang, Lavrov and representatives from Afghanistan's ruling Taliban as well as its neighboring countries — Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan — are taking part in the talks to discuss the future of the war-ravaged South Asian nation.

Tom West, the US special representative for Afghanistan, will attend a separate meeting at the same venue of the so-called Extended Troika: China, Russia and the United States plus Pakistan, a US State Department spokesperson said.

That meeting does not include Lavrov and Wang.

Taliban reverse Afghan girls' schooling

Afghanistan has been confronting a devastating economic and humanitarian crisis since the Taliban seized control in August 2021.

Last week, Wang met acting Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi in Kabul to discuss political and economic ties, the Afghan Foreign Ministry said. The discussions included starting work in the mining sector and Afghanistan's possible role in China's Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, it added.

Nevertheless, the Taliban's recent U-turn on allowing girls to attend high schools drew widespread condemnation.

US officials canceled talks in Doha with the Taliban following the decision. The US State Department also warned that Washington saw the decision as "a potential turning point in our engagement" with the militants.

sri/kb (Reuters, AFP, dpa)