ISLAMABAD — China’s top diplomat Thursday urged a virtual conference of G-20 foreign ministers to end economic sanctions against Taliban-ruled Afghanistan to help the country tackle a looming humanitarian crisis and an economic meltdown.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the conference, which took place on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session, that member states of the G-20 — as the premier global platform for international economic cooperation — are obligated to play a “constructive role” in helping the South Asian nation.
“All kinds of unilateral sanctions or restrictions on Afghanistan should be lifted,” said Wang.
The Islamist Taliban’s return to power last month prompted the United States to freeze billions of dollars held in its reserve for Kabul while the World Bank and International Monetary Fund both halted Afghanistan’s access to developmental funding.
“Afghanistan’s foreign exchange reserves are its national assets and should be owned by and used for the people, rather than being used as a bargaining chip to exert political pressure on Afghanistan,” Wang told the conference, which was focused on the situation in Afghanistan.
The United States and other countries have called on the Taliban to put together an inclusive government that includes respect for human rights and to desist from bringing back their harsh Islamist rule, before any direct engagement or diplomatic recognition can occur.
“China calls on G-20 members to actively take practical steps to help Afghanistan ease the current liquidity stress,” Wang said. He went on to urge international financial institutions to also provide financing support for the Afghan poverty reduction, sustainable development, livelihood and infrastructure projects.
Wang also called for redoubling efforts and speeding up the provision of humanitarian assistance to address the urgent needs of Afghan citizens. He said Beijing has decided to provide around $31 million “worth of related materials” to Kabul, including the donation of COVID-19 vaccine doses.
The Chinese diplomat also renewed his government’s expectations the Taliban caretaker government in Kabul will eventually build into a “broad and inclusive political structure, which respects the basic rights of minority groups, women and children.”
Wang said Afghanistan “must earnestly honour its commitments by making a clean break with and resolutely fighting all kinds of international terrorist forces.”
The Taliban announced this week an expansion in their all-male interim Cabinet, saying all Afghan ethnicities have now been given representation in the government. But they again failed to bring any women on board, fueling fears the Islamist movement intends to restrict female participation.