A top US diplomat will head to China this week to discuss issues in Afghanistan with his Chinese, Russian and Pakistani counterparts, the Chinese foreign ministry and the State Department said on Tuesday.
Beijing has invited Taliban representatives to the talks in Tunxi, Anhui province, a US official said.
Chinese special envoy for Afghanistan Yue Xiaoyong will host the meeting, said Wang Wenbin, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has arrived in Tunxi for the talks, Russia’s Interfax news agency cited a ministry spokeswoman as saying late on Tuesday.
Lavrov has largely stayed in Russia since last month’s invasion of Ukraine but did travel to Turkey for talks with his counterpart from Kyiv.
Tom West, the US special representative for Afghanistan, will attend the talks of the so-called Extended Troika, the three world powers plus Pakistan.
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 cut off following the Taliban takeover as US-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, a UN official said on Tuesday.
The retention of the ban prompted US officials to cancel talks in Doha with the Taliban and a warning that Washington saw the decision as “a potential turning point in our engagement” with the militants.
The meeting takes place while foreign ministers from Afghanistan’s neighbours meet on Wednesday and Thursday in Tunxi, Wang said.
That meeting will be chaired by Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi and attended by acting Afghan foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, and diplomats from Pakistan, Iran, Russia, Tajikstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Indonesia and Qatar.
- Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell