International meeting on Afghanistan pledges programmes: China

China on Friday hailed an international conference on Afghanistan that it said agreed to launch dozens of programmes to boost development and help the country maintain peace as foreign forces draw down.

AFP| Last Updated: Oct 31, 2014, 22:02 PM IST

Beijing: China on Friday hailed an international conference on Afghanistan that it said agreed to launch dozens of programmes to boost development and help the country maintain peace as foreign forces draw down.

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said that under a "Beijing Declaration" the meeting agreed to start 64 programmes covering issues such as trade, investment, infrastructure, disaster management and education.

The projects would help Afghanistan to develop and keep the peace without outside assistance, he added.

"The ministerial conference was a success," Wang told reporters at the end of the Fourth Ministerial Conference of the Istanbul Process on Afghanistan.

The Istanbul Process -- a key annual meeting on Afghanistan by high-level representatives from more than three-dozen countries and organisations -- coincides with the end of new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's four-day visit to Beijing.

Afghanistan is at a turning point as all NATO combat troops will depart the country by December, leaving Afghan troops and police to battle Taliban insurgents on their own. A residual force of around 12,000 soldiers will remain, focusing on counter-terrorism and training local forces.

Afghan Foreign Minister Zarar Ahmad Osmani said that his country's 350,000-member army was poised to take control of the entire country.

"Now 90 per cent of Afghan territory is under the protection of the army," he said told reporters. "Next, it will take control of 100 per cent of all regions."

China earlier this week pledged 1.5 billion yuan (USD 245 million) in aid to Afghanistan over the next three years, as well as greater support for Kabul in the struggle against "terrorist forces".

Symbolising China's importance, Ghani chose as his first destination for a state visit the resource-hungry economic giant that is seeking greater investment opportunities in Afghanistan.

"We look at China as a strategic partner, in the short term, medium term, long term and very long term," Ghani told President Xi Jinping at Beijing's Great Hall of the People on Tuesday.

China shares a narrow 76 kilometre border with Afghanistan's remote far northeast, but has a keen interest in its neighbour's mineral resources.

It has already secured major oil and copper-mining concessions in the country, which is believed to have more than USD 1 trillion worth of mineral resources, according to studies by the US Geological Survey.

China's state-run media have highlighted both Beijing's stepped-up involvement and the pitfalls that come with it.