Chinese special envoy for Afghanistan Deng Xijun has held talks in Islamabad and Kabul on the prospects of reconciliation with the Taliban amid intensification in fighting and deadlock in peace process. After wrapping up talks with senior Pakistani foreign ministry officials, Mr Xijun met Afghan deputy foreign minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai in Kabul on Saturday, and reiterated Beijing’s support for President Ashraf Ghani’s dialogue offer to the Taliban, an Afghan Foreign Ministry said. Mr Karzai welcomed China’s cooperation and support, especially its efforts to establish peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region. He also lauded Beijing’s role for the trilateral process with Pakistan and Afghanistan for peace in the region, said an Afghan Foreign Ministry’s statement, received by Daily Times. In Islamabad, the Chinese envoy in meetings ‘explored possibilities of the Taliban joining the reconciliation process’, sources aware of discussions told Daily Times. As part of its Afghan peace efforts, China organised a number of Afghan-related activities in Beijing recently. It hosted Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) contact group on Afghanistan meeting in Beijing on May 28. On May 29, China hosted trilateral strategic dialogue between China, Afghanistan and Pakistan. A meeting to strengthen trilateral cooperation in security and fight against terrorism was also held in Beijing this week. Pakistan, Afghanistan and China also held a practical cooperation dialogue to promote capacity building and economic cooperation projects with Afghanistan. Sources aware of the Beijing meetings told Daily Times that former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s visit to Kabul in April, finalisation of Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity and Pakistan (APAPPS) and Afghanistan’s agreement on starting connectivity and economic cooperation projects were appreciated by China. It was agreed that the three countries should work together on facilitating Afghan reconciliation, fighting terrorism and promoting connectivity. “This gives an indication of a very constructive role being played by China to deal with the aggravating challenges in Afghanistan,” a Pakistani official said, adding China and Pakistan believe that cooperation among three countries is vital for pursuing a result oriented political settlement in Afghanistan. He insisted that it is important that Taliban should realise that there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict. China and other regional stakeholders have stepped up diplomatic efforts as there is a degree of concern in the international community that despite a comprehensive unconditional offer of peace talks by Asraf Ghani, Afghan Taliban have not responded positively. They have instead started a fierce spring offensive, called “Khandaq”, in April and increased their operations in relatively peaceful western and northern parts of the country. However, international efforts have continued to find a way out of the impasse between Afghan Taliban and the US. The US continues to insist that Taliban may talk to Afghan government. But Taliban want direct talks with the US. “China is concerned that deteriorating situation in Afghanistan will seriously affect its regional politics particularly the progress of the Built and Road Initiative,” an official said. The SCO member states, which are affected by the continuation of war in Afghanistan, pressed for political solution to the problem in the contact group meeting in Beijing his week, sources privy to the development said on Saturday. “In the SCO contact group meeting, all countries except India were critical of US strategy in Afghanistan which had created space for Daesh while failing to reach a political solution with Taliban. All countries except India emphasised more efforts for political dialogue,” they said. “Towing the US line, India opposed distinction between good and bad terrorists implying against reconciliation with Taliban. However, it was only India which took this line. All others including Russia were in favour of a political solution. Russia also contended that more than 50 percent Afghan territory was under Taliban,” the sources went on to say. Published in Daily Times, June 3rd 2018.