Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani (Photo Credit: PTI)
China on Tuesday congratulated Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani on his re-election and called on all parties to accelerate the reconstruction and peace process in the war-torn country. President Ghani and his rival leader Abdullah Abdullah were each sworn in as president in separate ceremonies on Monday, throwing plans for peace negotiations with the Taliban into chaos and creating a piquant situation for the international community.
Ghani was declared as the winner of the presidential election in September, but Abdullah rejected the vote and held a parallel swearing-in ceremony surrounded by hundreds of his supporters on Monday.
The drama unfolded in Kabul as the US began withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan as part of the initial troop withdrawal required in the US-Taliban peace agreement signed between America and the Taliban in Doha on February 29.
Asked about the separate swearing-in ceremonies of Ghani and Abdullah, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a media briefing here that China congratulated Ghani’s re-election, in a clear backing of the incumbent president from Beijing.
"China respects Afghan people's independent choice and decision on the future of their nation. We congratulate Ghani's election as President," Geng said. "We call on parties in Afghanistan to bear in mind the interest of their nation and people consolidate consensus and accelerate the process of reconstruction and peace. We are willing to work with the new administration and the people in all sectors to promote the friendly relations between our two countries for the benefit of our peoples," he said.
"Now the situation in Afghanistan is at crucial stage. The Taliban and the US have signed an agreement, the inter-Afghanistan negotiation is hopeful to be held soon,” he said. Geng said the people of Afghanistan were facing a "precious opportunity" to bring a four-decade-long conflict to an end, but asserted that there was also a "severe challenge" involved.
"We hope the international community will respect the Afghan people’s will and continue to support inter-Afghan peace and reconciliation. We also call on the foreign armies to withdraw in orderly and responsible manner ensure a transition to avoid terrorist organization’s expansion," he said.
The US, which invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban in 2001, signed an agreement aimed at "bringing peace" to Afghanistan with Taliban last month.
Under the agreement, the US and NATO allies have agreed to withdraw all troops within 14 months if the Taliban uphold the deal. Under the deal, the militants also agreed not to allow al-Qaeda or any other extremist group to operate in the areas they control.