Lavrov arrived in Tunxi, east China's Anhui Province, for the third meeting of foreign ministers on Afghanistan, Russia's official news agency Tass reported on Wednesday. While the purpose of Lavrov's visit to China is to take part in the meeting on Afghanistan, significance is attached to his visit as Beijing, a close ally of Moscow has backed Russia's war on Ukraine even though it walked a fine-line calling for peaceful resolution while highlighting Russia's security concerns relating to NATO expansion.
This is the first visit by a top Russian official to China after Moscow launched a war on Ukraine on February 24. Significantly, China is also organising a meeting of the Special Representatives for the Afghan issue comprising the US, Russia and Pakistan on the sidelines of the two-day Foreign Ministers' Meeting of the Neighbouring Countries of Afghanistan starting from Wednesday.
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Muhammad Quereshi is also attending the meeting. On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told the media that as agreed upon by all sides, the extended meeting of the China-US-Russia consultation mechanism on the Afghan issue will be held on the sidelines of the Foreign Ministers meeting.
He said China, the US, Russia and Pakistan are countries with important influence on the Afghan issue. We hope to seek synergy between this meeting and the third Foreign Ministers' Meeting among the Neighbouring Countries of Afghanistan, further build consensus on the Afghan issue, encourage regional countries and the international community to step up support for peace and reconstruction in Afghanistan, and help the country achieve peace, stability and development at an early date, he said.
China is hosting both the meetings as Beijing along with its all-weather ally Pakistan seeks to firm up its influence in the war-torn country ruled by the Taliban interim government. Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will chair the meeting to be attended by the foreign ministers of Pakistan, Iran, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan or their representatives, Wang told the media on Monday.
The spokesman said, on the sidelines of the meeting, Wang Yi will also host a dialogue between the foreign ministers and the acting Foreign Minister of the Afghan interim government Amir Khan Muttaqi. Foreign Ministers of Indonesia and Qatar have been invited to the meeting as guests, Wang said.
Pakistan, which along with China and Russia kept its embassy opened in Kabul after the Taliban took over, held the first meeting of the foreign ministers of Afghanistan's neighbouring countries on September 8 last year, a day after the Afghan Taliban announced the formation of an interim government. The second meeting was held in Tehran in October last year.
The announcement by China to hold the third meeting of the Afghanistan neighbours conference came after Wang Yi while visiting Pakistan last week made a surprise visit to Kabul, on March 24, the first visit by the Chinese foreign minister since the change of government in Afghanistan in August 2021.