Afghan Taliban delegation visits China to discuss unrest: sources

PESHAWAR (Reuters) - A delegation from the Taliban visited China earlier this month to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, where the insurgent movement is fighting the Western-backed government in Kabul, sources in the Taliban said.

A delegation led by Abbas Stanakzai, head of the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, visited Beijing on July 18-22 at the invitation of the Chinese government, a senior member of the Taliban said.

“We have good terms with different countries of the world and China is one among them,” said the Taliban official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“We informed Chinese officials about the occupation by invading forces and their atrocities on Afghan people,” he said. “We wanted the Chinese leadership to help us raise these issues on world forums and help us get freedom from occupying forces.”

The visit was confirmed by other senior Taliban figures who did not want to be named because they were not authorized to speak on behalf of the Qatar political office.

The Chinese foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Along with Pakistan, the United States and Afghanistan itself, China is a member of the four-country group that tried to restart peace talks with the Taliban earlier this year.

That effort never got beyond exploratory talks between the countries themselves and appeared to break down definitively when former Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Akhtar Mansour was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan in May.

However in public statements, the Taliban have said that they wish to have good relations with Afghanistan’s neighbors, many of which are concerned at the threat of local Islamist or separatist militant movements.

China has long been concerned that instability in Afghanistan will spill over into the violence-prone far western Chinese region of Xinjiang, where hundreds have died in recent years in unrest blamed by Beijing on Islamist extremists.

Reporting by Jibran Ahmad; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard; Writing by James Mackenzie