China becomes first to name new Afghan ambassador under Taliban

News conference held by Afghan Deputy PM Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and Wang Yu, China's ambassador in Kabul

By Mohammad Yunus Yawar and Charlotte Greenfield

KABUL (Reuters) - China became the first country on Wednesday to formally name a new ambassador to Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover, after its envoy presented credentials at a ceremony in Kabul.

The Taliban have not been officially recognised by any foreign government, and Beijing did not indicate whether Wednesday's appointment signalled any wider steps towards formal recognition of the Taliban.

"This is the normal rotation of China's ambassador to Afghanistan, and is intended to continue advancing dialogue and cooperation between China and Afghanistan," China's foreign ministry said in a statement. "China's policy towards Afghanistan is clear and consistent."

A Taliban administration foreign ministry spokesman told Reuters new envoy Zhao Xing was the first ambassador from any country to take up the post since August 2021, when the Taliban took over as U.S.-led foreign forces withdrew after 20 years.

Mohammad Hassan Akhund, acting prime minister in the Taliban administration, had accepted the new envoy's credentials in a ceremony, the Taliban administration's deputy spokesman, Bilal Karimi, said in a statement.

The Taliban administration spokesperson's office published photos of a ceremony at Afghanistan's presidential palace on Wednesday at which the ambassador was received by officials, including Akhund and the acting foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi.

China's previous ambassador to Afghanistan, Wang Yu, took up the role in 2019 and finished his tenure last month.

There are other diplomats in Kabul with the title of ambassador, but all of them took up their posts before the Taliban takeover.

Other countries and bodies, such as Pakistan and the European Union, have since sent senior diplomats to lead diplomatic missions using the title 'charge d'affaires', which does not require presenting ambassadorial credentials to the host nation.

The Taliban entered the capital on Aug. 15, 2021, as the Afghan security forces, set up with years of Western support, disintegrated and U.S.-backed President Ashraf Ghani fled.

(Reporting by Mohammad Yunus Yawar in Kabul, Charlotte Greenfield in Islamabad and Laurie Chen in Beijing; Editing by Nick Macfie and Peter Graff)