Officials from China and the Taliban met in a sign of improving ties.

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The meeting in Tianjin, China, comes as US-led foreign soldiers continue to withdraw from Afghanistan.

As the US-led foreign forces begin to withdraw from Afghanistan, China’s foreign minister met with a Taliban delegation, signaling growing ties. According to a readout of the meeting from the foreign ministry, Wang Yi told the nine visiting Taliban representatives, including the group’s co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, that Beijing expected them to “play an important role in the process of peaceful reconciliation and reconstruction in Afghanistan.” According to the readout, he also expressed hope that the Taliban will crackdown on the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which he described as a “direct danger to China’s national security.” This refers to a group China claims is operating in the Xinjiang area in China’s far west. Beijing has expressed concern that separatists could use Afghanistan as a staging area.

The meeting comes at a time when the Taliban has made significant gains in Afghanistan since May when US-led foreign soldiers began the final part of their withdrawal, which is expected to be completed by the end of August. Civilians have been killed and displaced as a result of the conflict with Afghan government forces.

At about the same time, Taliban officials have increased their international diplomacy in recent months in order to gain worldwide recognition for when they expect to retake power. The meeting in Tianjin, China, on Wednesday, which Taliban spokesperson Mohammed Naeem said had been at the initiative of Chinese authorities, was largely interpreted as a gift from Beijing toward that legitimacy.

Naeem wrote on Twitter that “politics, economy, and issues related to the security of both countries and the current situation of Afghanistan and the peace process were discussed in the meetings”.

“[The] delegation assured China that they will not allow anyone to use Afghan soil against China,” Naeem said. “China also reiterated its commitment of continuation of their assistance with Afghans and said they will not interfere in Afghanistan’s issues but will help to solve the problems and restoration of peace in the country.”

Story By: Norvisi Mawunyegah