China has invited a Taliban delegation to attend an “intra-Afghan” conference in Beijing, a spokesman said Wednesday, after a prospective deal between the US and the insurgents collapsed last month.
Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban political spokesman, said on Twitter that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s co-founder, had met with Chinese diplomats in Doha, where the group has a political office.
“Both sides discussed the upcoming intra-Afghan conference in Beijing and issues related to the solution of Afghan problem,” Shaheen wrote.
He later told AFP the conference would take place October 29-30.
It would be separate from talks between the US and the Taliban, which spent the past year negotiating a deal that would have seen the Pentagon pull thousands of troops from Afghanistan in return for various security guarantees.
President Donald Trump scrapped those talks last month amid continued Taliban violence in Afghanistan, including a bombing that killed an American soldier.
The deal would have paved the way for separate talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government to search for an end to the conflict.
The Taliban have steadfastly refused to talk to the government, and Shaheen said any attendance by Afghan officials would be on the understanding they were representing only themselves.
“All participants will attend in their personal capacity and will present their personal point of view for the solution of the Afghan problem,” Shaheen wrote on Twitter.
There was no immediate reaction from the administration of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, and Shaheen told AFP “it is not yet clear” whether government officials would attend, noting only lower-level officials should be included in the guest list.
Former president Hamid Karzai’s spokesman, Mohammad Yusuf Saha, told AFP that Karzai was “prepared to attend” but said no attendee list had been finalized.
Beijing has previously hosted Taliban officials, most recently last month.
China shares a 76-kilometre (47-mile) border with the extreme northeastern tip of Afghanistan, in a mountainous area called the Wakhan Corridor on the Afghan side.