China may not oppose Taliban’s proposed UN envoy, but concerns remain

23-Sep-2021 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 5:02 AM Print This Post

China is unlikely to oppose the Taliban’s request to appoint a new Afghan envoy to the United Nations, observers said, despite ongoing concerns over whether the group will stamp out terrorism as requested by Beijing.

UN secretary general Antonio Guterres received a letter on Monday signed by Amir Khan Muttaqi, the new Taliban regime’s acting foreign minister, requesting to speak at the general Assembly, the UN’s main policymaking organ, which is meeting until Monday.

The letter said the Taliban had chosen its spokesman Suhail Shaheen to be its UN representative, and that the current Afghan ambassador to the international body, nominated by the former government, could no longer represent the country, according to UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

China was not likely to oppose the Taliban’s nomination of Shaheen, but would view the matter cautiously, diplomatic observers said.

Gu Dingguo, a research fellow at East China Normal University who specialises in China’s neighbours, said Beijing had been maintaining diplomatic engagement with the Taliban regime and would not object to its proposed UN appointment.

“Although China has not publicly announced its recognition of the new government, it maintains diplomatic ties with the regime, so China is not likely to oppose the appointment,” he said.

The Taliban swiftly took control of the country after the US and Nato began withdrawing troops, and this month set up an interim government dominated by its hardliners.

China has been one of few countries to keep their Kabul embassy open during the turmoil, as Beijing has maintained relatively close engagement with the Taliban. On Tuesday and Wednesday, China’s Afghanistan special envoy Yue Xiaoyong visited the new regime’s senior officials in Kabul along with his counterparts from Russia and Pakistan, with the three countries and the Taliban agreeing to maintain “constructive engagement”.

But Beijing may still have concerns about giving formal recognition to the Taliban government, according to Gu.

“Its promises haven’t been delivered, including establishing an inclusive government and completely cutting off ties with terrorist groups, especially the East Turkestan Islamic Movement [ETIM],” he said.

Beijing holds ETIM accountable for past terror attacks in its western region of Xinjiang and has repeatedly asked the Taliban to ensure it does not shelter the group.

Earlier this month, Shaheen was reported by Chinese nationalistic tabloid Global Times to have said that many members of ETIM had left Afghanistan. However, Shaheen did not explain where those people had gone or whether the new government would hand over ETIM members to China.

Zhang Jiadong, an international relations professor at Fudan University in Shanghai, said China may be willing to accept the UN nomination but would not necessarily promote it actively.

“China has always been inclined to recognise a regime with de facto control of a country, given that the Chinese Communist Party itself was not recognised by the international community for a long time,” he said.

“However, China may not actively promote it, because as one of the UN Security Council’s five permanent members, China’s statement and position should also take into consideration the international community.”


Category: China

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