China wants to end international sanctions on the Taliban, posing a threat to Secretary of State Antony Blinken's hope for unity at the United Nations Security Council.
"The U.S. should face up to the legitimate demand of Afghanistan, abandon pressures and sanctions, and stop creating obstacles to the economy, livelihood and peace, and reconstruction in Afghanistan," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters Wednesday.
The collapse of the NATO-backed central government and victory of the Taliban last month turned Afghanistan into a pressing theater for world powers across the geopolitical spectrum, threatening contention between the United States and China. Western allies and authoritarian states such as China fear instability and a refugee crisis out of Afghanistan, but U.S. officials hope foreign aid and the pressure of international sanctions will restrain the Taliban's capacity for human rights abuses.
TALIBAN OFFICIALS INSIST CO-FOUNDER HASN'T BEEN MURDERED BY INTERNAL RIVAL
"Over the last 20 years or so, the international community has provided about 75% of the Afghan government's annual operating budget," Blinken said Tuesday during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. "So, among the many things that the Taliban says it seeks - both basic legitimacy and basic support - the United States, the international community, has a hand on a lot of that - much of that, most of that. And so, we'll have to see going forward what conclusions the Taliban draws from that and what its conduct will be."
U.S. and European officials made clear, even within hours of the Taliban's entry into Kabul, that Western powers would provide humanitarian aid to staunch the outward flow of Afghan refugees. They tend to deliver this aid independently while expressing hope that direct aid to the Taliban-run regime will be contingent on their behavior - including compliance with a recent U.N. Security Council resolution that demands safe passage for Western citizens and Afghan nationals attempting to flee the Taliban and the protection of human rights.
"If it's in violation of that resolution, it's hard to see any of these U.N. sanctions being lifted, travel restrictions being lifted, and indeed additional sanctions could well be imposed," Blinken said.
Any future sanctions-levying U.N. Security Council measure would have to survive the scrutiny of China and Russia, which have the right to veto council resolutions. Those countries both abstained from a vote on the resolution that Blinken touted. While Blinken pointed out that "the foreign reserves of Afghanistan are almost exclusively in banks here in the United States," where they sit frozen, China demanded Wednesday that U.S. officials release the funds to the Taliban.
"[Taliban spokesman Suhail] Shaheen is right," Zhao said. "The assets belong to Afghanistan and should be spent for the Afghan people. The U.S. should not freeze them without justification."
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Tags: News, Foreign Policy, National Security, Antony Blinken, China, Taliban, United Nations, Afghanistan, Sanctions
Original Author: Joel Gehrke
Original Location: 'Abandon pressures': China threatens Blinken's hope for UN unity on Taliban sanctions