China hosts Russia, U.S. officials for talks on Afghanistan

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BEIJING, March 30 (Reuters) - Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday in the eastern Chinese province of Anhui, where China was set to host two days of meetings on Afghanistan, state broadcaster CGTN reported.

The report gave no other details on their meeting.

Lavrov had arrived earlier in China for talks hosted by Wang that were set to include representatives from Afghanistan's ruling Taliban as well as Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

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Tom West, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan, will attend a separate meeting at the same venue of the so-called Extended Troika: the China, Russia and the United States plus Pakistan, a U.S. State Department spokesperson said.

That meeting does not include Lavrov and Wang.

The talks come against the backdrop of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and as Afghanistan suffers an economic and humanitarian crisis worsened by a financial aid cutoff following the Taliban takeover as U.S.-led troops departed in August.

They also come amid widespread condemnation of the Taliban's U-turn last week on allowing girls to attend public high schools, which has sparked consternation among funders ahead of a key aid donors conference. read more

The retention of the ban prompted U.S. officials to cancel talks in Doha with the Taliban and a State Department warning that Washington saw the decision as "a potential turning point in our engagement" with the militants. read more

The United States believes that it shares with other Extended Troika members an interest in the Taliban making good on commitments to form an inclusive government, cooperate on counterterrorism and rebuild the Afghan economy, the State Department spokesperson said.

Last week, Wang visited Kabul, where he met acting Afghan foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi to discuss political and economic ties, including starting work in the mining sector and Afghanistan's possible role in China's Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, the Afghan foreign ministry said.

Muttaqi was set to attend the meeting in China.

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Reporting by Yew Lun Tian and Tony Munroe; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan

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