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Afghanistan turmoil

China, U.S., Russia and Pakistan to hold talks on Afghanistan

Gathering comes after Taliban makes U-turn on girls attending schools

The Taliban's U-turn last week on allowing girls to attend public high schools has sparked international condemnation.   © Reuters

BEIJING/WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- A top U.S. diplomat will meet this week in China to discuss issues in Afghanistan with his Chinese, Russian and Pakistani counterparts, the Chinese foreign ministry and the State Department said on Tuesday.

The U.S. understands that China has invited Taliban representatives to the talks in Tunxi, a State Department spokesperson said.

Chinese special envoy for Afghanistan Yue Xiaoyong will host the meeting, said Wang Wenbin, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has arrived in Tunxi for the talks, Interfax news agency cited a ministry spokeswoman as saying late on Tuesday. Lavrov has largely stayed in Russia since last month's invasion of Ukraine but did travel to Turkey for talks with his counterpart from Kyiv.

Tom West, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan, will attend the talks of the so-called Extended Troika: the three world powers plus Pakistan, the State Department spokesperson said.

The talks come against the backdrop of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and as Afghanistan suffers an economic and humanitarian crisis worsened by a financial aid cutoff following the Taliban takeover as U.S.-led troops departed in August.

They also come amid widespread condemnation of the Taliban's U-turn last week on allowing girls to attend public high schools, which has sparked consternation among funders ahead of a key aid donors conference, a U.N. official said on Tuesday.

The retention of the ban prompted U.S. officials to cancel talks in Doha with the Taliban and a State Department warning that Washington saw the decision as "a potential turning point in our engagement" with the militants.

The U.S. believes that it shares with other Extended Troika members an interest in the Taliban making good on commitments to form an inclusive government, cooperate on counterterrorism and rebuild the Afghan economy, the State Department spokesperson said.

The meeting takes place while foreign ministers from Afghanistan's neighbors meet on Wednesday and Thursday in the eastern Chinese province of Anhui, Wang said.

That meeting will be chaired by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and attended by Afghan acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, and diplomats from Pakistan, Iran, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Indonesia and Qatar.

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