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China has offered to host peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in the wake of US troops starting their withdrawal from Afghanistan after a nearly two decade long stay.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who in the last two-days held telephone talks with his Pakistani and Afghan counterparts, has said that China will back the Afghan government headed by Ashraf Ghani in playing a leading role, news reports said.

This is seen as significant given that China’s close ally Pakistan is seen as the main backer of the Taliban which has mounted attacks on Afghan government troops in a bid to secure itself a strong hand in any negotiations.

The offer to facilitate peace talks between the Kabul government and the Taliban was made during Wang's phone talks with his Afghan counterpart Mohammad Haneef Atmar on Monday, according to Afghan news outlets and PTI.

Asked to elaborate at the Chinese foreign ministry briefing, spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Tuesday that “China is ready to facilitate intra-Afghan talks and will provide necessary conditions for negotiation in China."

Last month, the US had announced its plans to withdraw its troops completely from Afghanistan by 11 September, 2021 after almost two decades of stay in Afghanistan.

China is concerned that the US pullout could lead to the regrouping of Uygur Muslim militants in Afghanistan. Uygurs live in Xinjiang province that shares borders with China. The previous Trump administration had lifted a ban on the separatist East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a Uygur militant outfit active in Xinjiang. The ETIM was designated as a terrorist organisation by the UN's 1267 counter-terrorism committee in 2002 for its alleged association with al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden and the Taliban.

During their telephonic conversation, Wang told Atmar that "China will continue to support the Afghan government in playing a leading role in the country's peace and reconciliation process," China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Wang also called on all parties to support and implement relevant UN Security Council resolutions to promote a smooth transition of the Afghanistan situation, to avoid in particular a resurgence of terrorist forces, it said.

In a comment that may not go down well with the Taliban, Wang expressed his hope that Afghanistan's future leadership will pursue a moderate Muslim policy, promote a foreign policy of peace, maintain friendship with neighbouring countries and firmly combat all forms of terrorism, Xinhua said.

Wang’s talks with Atmar came a day after he held talks with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi during which he called on the UN to play its “due role" to fill the void being left by the US.

Wang also said that the eight-member Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), of which India and Pakistan are members, should pay more attention to the situation with Afghanistan's neighbours strengthening communication, speaking in one voice and taking coordinated action.China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan are the SCO members.

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