The top diplomats from Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan attended a conference Thursday that focused on ensuring regional security in light of the situation in Afghanistan.
The foreign ministers of the four countries met in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, and discussed the need to cooperate with Afghan authorities to maintain political stability and to prevent a humanitarian crisis, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
The ministers also talked about the coordination of efforts to “counter the threats of terrorism and drug trafficking from the Afghan territory.”
Russia and China are among a few countries that have kept their diplomatic missions in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, since the Taliban took power in August 2021.
Moscow worked for years to establish contacts with the Taliban, even though it designated the group a terror organization in 2003 and never took it off the list. It hosted several rounds of talks on Afghanistan that involved senior representatives of the Taliban and neighboring countries.
Beijing has taken a higher profile on regional issues related to Afghanistan as part of China's efforts to extend its global clout.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang held separate talks on the sidelines of Thursday's meeting to discuss a range of issues, including the situation in Ukraine, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.
In a statement preceding the Uzbekistan conference, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Beijing was ready to work more closely with Afghanistan’s neighbors and the international community for stability, security, prosperity, and development in both the country and wider region.
The statement reaffirmed China’s pledge to respect the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Afghanistan, as well as the choices made by its people. It called on the international community to firmly support Afghanistan to combat terrorism, and urged the United States to live up to its commitment to the country.
Beijing also expressed hope that Afghanistan's interim government would continue working actively to meet its people’s interests and the international community’s expectations for an open and inclusive political structure.
“We hope the Afghan interim government will protect the basic rights and interests of all Afghan people, including women, children and all ethnic groups,” the statement said.
Girls currently cannot attend school beyond sixth grade, and women are not allowed at universities in Afghanistan. Authorities present the education restrictions as a temporary suspension and not a ban, but universities and schools reopened in March without their female students.
Women also are barred from public spaces, including parks, and most forms of employment.
The policies have raised fierce international objections, increasing the country’s isolation at a time when its economy has collapsed and worsened a humanitarian crisis.
No country has recognized the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.
Follow AP's coverage of Afghanistan at https://apnews.com/hub/afghanistan
The Associated Press