As Afghan President Ashraf Ghani wraps up his state visit to China this week, Beijing is preparing to host a bevy of international leaders for the fourth ministerial meeting of the Istanbul Process. With U.S. and NATO forces preparing to withdraw from Afghanistan, the future of the war-torn country may rest in the hands of its neighbors. China, as this year’s host for the Istanbul Process, has a chance to play a major role in pushing for concrete action from the only regional coalition dedicated to Afghan security.
The Istanbul Process is a regional cooperation mechanism designed to support “a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.” Its 14 member countries are spread throughout Central and South Asia as well as the Middle East: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and the United Arab Emirates. This is the first year the annual ministerial conference has been held in China, providing a golden opportunity for Beijing to take the initiative in shaping Afghan security in the post-NATO era. As a senior U.S. State Department official, told Reuters, the Istanbul Process meeting in Beijing is “a real demonstration of China’s commitment to Afghanistan, to its role in the region and one that we greatly welcome.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying noted the potential for this year’s meeting in a press briefing last week. “The 4th Ministerial Conference of Istanbul Process on Afghanistan is of great importance as it is the first big international conference on Afghanistan hosted by China, and also the first significant international conference on Afghanistan since the sworn-in [sic] of the new Afghan government,” she said. Hua added, “By hosting this conference, China hopes to showcase the world’s support [for] the peaceful reconstruction in Afghanistan, and build consensus of regional countries on strengthening cooperation on Afghanistan and jointly safeguarding security and stability in Afghanistan and the region.”
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