China ready to support Kabul-Taliban reconciliation: minister

China ready to support Kabul-Taliban reconciliation: minister
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks during a joint press conference with Pakistan's National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad on February 12, 2015. Wang Yi arrived in Islamabad to meet with Pakistani government officials

ISLAMABAD - Beijing is ready to support the Afghan government in reconciling with the Taliban, the Chinese foreign minister said Thursday, further indicating China's desire to expand its role in its war-torn neighbour.

Wang Yi, speaking on a visit to Pakistan, said that Afghanistan's long-term stability depended on a "broad-based and inclusive national reconciliation" which needed international support.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani visited Beijing in October, soon after taking office, and China promised US$245 million (S$333.26 million) in "free assistance", having already secured major oil and copper-mining concessions in the country.

But China has previously said little about supporting political efforts in Afghanistan, with which it shares a 76-kilometre (47-mile) border.

Wang said that with NATO's combat mission in Afghanistan having finished in December, it was time to end the country's decades of turmoil and poverty.

"We will support the Afghan government in realising reconciliation with various political factions including Taliban," Wang told a news conference in Islamabad, speaking through an interpreter.

"The international community needs to give support and encouragement. China is ready to play a constructive role and will provide necessary facilitation any time if it is required by various parties in Afghanistan." Wang made the comments at a joint press conference with Pakistan's foreign affairs adviser Sartaj Aziz. He also announced Chinese President Xi Jinping would visit Pakistan "at an early date this year".

Last month the Taliban, still resilient despite NATO's 13-year war against them, said they had sent a delegation to China, in an English-language statement posted on their website.

The militants insisted the visit was not for the purposes of mediation.

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