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Afghanistan, China, Pakistan urge release of overseas Afghan frozen assets

Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang (L), Pakistan's Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari (C) and Afghanistan's foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, pose after a meeting in Islamabad, Pakistan, on May 6, 2023. (Photo by AFP)

Afghanistan, China and Pakistan have jointly urged relevant countries to remove sanctions on Kabul and release Afghan overseas frozen assets.

On Monday, Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, the Taliban's Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang issued a joint statement after holding the 5th China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Saturday.

"The three sides urged the relevant countries lift their unilateral sanctions against Afghanistan and return the assets overseas for the benefit of the Afghan people, and create opportunities for economic development and prosperity in Afghanistan," the statement said.

Muttaqi concluded his four-day trip to Pakistan on Monday, after holding bilateral and trilateral meetings with his Pakistani and Chinese counterparts in Islamabad.

"Taking note of the Afghan Interim Government’s repeated assurances to respect and protect women’s rights and interests, the three sides called on the international community to support the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan, and help Afghanistan to improve governance and strengthen the capacity building, so as to effectively protect the basic rights and interests of all segments of the Afghan society, including women and children," the statement read.

Since the full collapse of the US-backed government in Kabul and the Taliban takeover in August 2021, vast foreign subsidies were halted and aid programs and financial assistance were dramatically cut back as many countries refused to deal with the Taliban authorities.

No country has yet recognized the Taliban government and their rule over Afghanistan. Since their takeover, the Taliban have been struggling to contain a deepening economic crisis.

Afghanistan's heavily aid-dependent economy, mostly funded by international donors, has been in chaos since the Western countries suspended humanitarian aid and froze Afghan assets.

The administration of US President Joe Biden has frozen over $7 billion in Afghan assets since NATO’s withdrawal from the country. Washington has said that half of the assets would be made available to victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 following the 9/11 attacks on the United States. American forces occupied the country for about two decades after removing the Taliban from power. But as the US forces left Afghanistan, the Taliban stormed into Kabul, weakened by continued foreign occupation.

Millions of Afghans are without work today, the banking system is virtually dysfunctional, medical facilities are lying in shambles and the worst humanitarian crisis in modern history is unfolding. 

Top diplomats of Afghanistan, China and Pakistan on Monday also "reaffirmed to continue cooperation in areas of mutual interest like economic development, capacity building, and improving livelihoods."

They also "agreed to strengthen cooperation in the fields such as agriculture, trade, energy, capacity building, border management etc."

Last month, the United Nations warned that around 34 million people in Afghanistan were mired in poverty, as sanctions by the US against the de-facto Taliban government and the freeze of the country's assets have exacerbated the humanitarian crisis there.

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