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China appoints ambassador to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan

September 13, 2023

China is the first country to appoint an envoy to Afghanistan since the Taliban took over in 2021. The new ambassador was greated with fanfare by the Taliban, who hope to receive internatioonal recognition.

Chinese ambassador Zhao Sheng alongside Taliban-appointed acting Prime Minister Mohammad Hasan Akhund
China has appointed a new ambassador to Taliban-ruled AfghanistanImage: Taliban Prime Minister Media Office

Beijing on Wednesday formally named a new ambassador to Afghanistan, making China the first country to appoint an envoy there since the Taliban returned to power in August 2021.

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan under the Taliban has not been officially recognized by any other government. China did not specify whether the ambassador's appointment amounted to a step toward formal recognition of the Taliban government.

Beijing says appointment 'normal rotation'

China's previous ambassador to Afghanistan, Wang Yu, had entered office in 2019 and finished his tenure last month.

"This is the normal rotation of China's ambassador to Afghanistan, and is intended to continue advancing dialogue and cooperation between China and Afghanistan," China's Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "China's policy toward Afghanistan is clear and consistent."

All other foreign ambassadors in Afghanistan took up their posts under the internationally recognized Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, which was overthrown by the Taliban in 2021 as US-led international forces withdrew from the country.

While Beijing has not formally recognized the Taliban, China and Afghanistan signed an oil extraction agreement earlier this year.

Chinese ambassador Zhao Sheng
China's new ambassador Zhao Sheng was greeted by uniformed troops in KabulImage: Taliban Prime Minister Media Office

Ambassador met with fanfare in Afghanistan

Ambassador Zhao Sheng's car was escorted to the Presidential Place by a police convoy. He was greeted by uniformed troops and top-ranking Taliban officials.

Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban's chief spokesperson, hailed the ambassador's appointment.

"It also signals to other countries to come forward and interact with the Islamic Emirate," Mujahid told the Associated Press (AP) news agency.

"We should establish good relations as a result of good interactions and, with good relations, we can solve all the problems that are in front of us or coming in the future," he said.

Taliban-appointed acting Prime Minister Mohammad Hassan Akhund said he hoped the appointment would be "the beginning of a new chapter” of relations between the two countries.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry told the German Press Agency (dpa): "As a traditionally friendly neighbor of Afghanistan, China has always maintained diplomatic relations, exchanges and cooperation in a wide range of fields with Afghanistan." 

sdi/jcg (Reuters, AP, dpa)