On 12-13 April 2023, Uzbekistan hosted the 4th Meeting of Neighboring Countries of Afghanistan. The meeting, attended by seven different countries, was held in Samarkand. Foreign ministers and deputies of Pakistan, Iran, China, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan shared their views on evaluating the current situation in Afghanistan and ensuring regional development. It is known that the main focus of the meeting is the fight against terrorism and drugs.
The meeting was chaired by Bakhtiyor Saidov, Interim Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan; The Chinese delegation was led by Foreign Minister Qin Gang, and the Pakistani delegation was led by Deputy Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar. Iran was represented by Foreign Minister Huseyin Emir Abdullahiyan, Russia was represented by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Tajikistan was represented by Foreign Minister Siraceddin Muhriddin, Turkmenistan was represented by First Deputy Foreign Minister Vepa Haciyev.
The “Neighboring Countries of Afghanistan” mechanism was established in 2021 at the initiative of Pakistan in order to develop a regional approach to the situation in the country in question. The first meeting of this mechanism at the level of Foreign Ministers was held in Pakistan on 8 September 2021. While Tehran hosted the second meeting in November 2021; The third meeting on March 31, 2022 was held in Tonshi, China.
The meeting focused on the current situation and future of Afghanistan, and in this context, the fight against terrorism and drugs; It is of great importance for China to strengthen its links with both Afghanistan and Central Asia. Drawing attention with its active diplomacy in recent times, Beijing has also taken different initiatives on Afghanistan. It can be said that Beijing will continue such Afghanistan-based initiatives.
As a matter of fact, at the meeting in Samarkand, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said that China should coordinate and cooperate with Afghanistan’s neighbors and the international community to help Afghanistan enter the stable development path at an early date and jointly achieve lasting security, prosperity and progress in the region. expressed its readiness to increase cooperation. In this framework, Beijing aims to be an active actor in its projects to be realized at the regional level.
Chinese Foreign Minister Qin also stated that his country will continue to provide support within its capacity for the reconstruction of Afghanistan. In addition, the Chinese Foreign Minister emphasized that they are willing to work together with neighboring countries to adhere to the principles of friendship, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness, to get along with neighbors and act as their partners. However, at the meeting, China made a four-point proposal on Afghanistan. Thus, the Beijing administration has added a new circle to its recent understanding of peaceful diplomacy.
The first item of Qin’s proposal; To eliminate the elements of terrorism in Afghanistan, to eliminate terrorism at its source and to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a shelter again. In addition, Qin also emphasized acting jointly on terrorism and used the following expressions:
“We need to deepen regional cooperation on counter-terrorism, drug control and refugees, strengthen border control, and jointly help Afghanistan develop its counter-terrorism capabilities to effectively curb cross-border terrorist activity and instability.”
Secondly; It was underlined that the United States of America (USA) should fulfill its responsibilities. Thus, the USA was described as the main actor that led to the emergence of the Afghan Problem and it was underlined that the actions of the Washington administration harmed the Afghan people. It is known that Beijing wants the US to end the unilateral sanctions imposed on Afghanistan. China has included this request in the scope of the proposal. It was also emphasized that the US should return Afghanistan’s overseas funds.
In the third article, the Taliban is called to establish an inclusive administration. Neighboring countries also advise the Taliban to take other Muslim countries as an example on the basis of respect for Afghanistan’s independence, sovereignty and national self-confidence.
Finally, in Qin’s proposal, attention is drawn to the importance of continuing practical cooperation in Afghanistan. This is a proposal that will serve the purpose of continuing to develop ties with Afghanistan and ensuring stability in the country and the region through joint ventures. It is also seen that China aims to accelerate the Tonshi Initiative, which was brought to the agenda at the previous meeting.
The Tonshi Initiative calls on all parties and relevant regional and international financial institutions to provide financial support for Afghanistan’s reconstruction and development. In this context, the parties promised to support Afghanistan’s reconstruction in areas such as humanitarian aid, connectivity, economy and trade, agriculture, energy and capacity building. As it can be understood, Qin is trying to develop the Tonshi Initiative, strengthen the coordination between the countries of the region and deepen the cooperation within the framework of his suggestions.
Qin’s statements and suggestions are important in terms of showing China’s intention to pursue a common policy on Afghanistan. Because it is known that the countries of the region have common anxiety and threat perceptions. At the same time, commercial and economic goals are in parallel with China’s initiatives. The issue of combating terrorism and drugs is also important for the safety and continuity of the Belt and Road Initiative. Therefore, in line with its regional policy and interests, it can be said that Beijing considers the meeting in question as an important opportunity. It is also seen that the participation of Qin provides an opportunity for China to strengthen its Central Asian alliances. As a matter of fact, Samarkand hosted many diplomatic representatives for two days, allowing various meetings to be held.
Another advantage of the meeting is that it gives Beijing the opportunity to continue the dialogue with Moscow. As a matter of fact, meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, Qin called for strengthening trade, deepening strategic coordination and political trust between the parties.
As a result, the meeting in question was extremely productive for China in terms of Afghanistan policy, initiatives towards Central Asia, bilateral relations and relations with Russia. Beijing attaches importance to the stability of Afghanistan and therefore the region in order to develop regional connections, protect investments and ensure the continuity of projects. In this sense, it can be said that the Samarkand Meeting is a development that serves the mediation diplomacy for China, especially because of Qin’s four-point proposal.
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 “Chinese FM Attends 4th Foreign Ministers’ Meeting of Afghanistan’s Neighboring Countries”, China.org, http://www.china.org.cn/world/Off_the_Wire/2023-04/14/content_85228716.htm, (Date of Accession: 14.04.2023).
 “The Tunxi Initiative of the Neighboring Countries of Afghanistanon Supporting Economic Reconstruction in and Practical Cooperation with Afghanistan”, FMPRC, https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/wjdt_665385/2649_665393/202204/t20220401_10662024.html, (Date of Accession: 14.04.2023).
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