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Afghanistan’s Taliban administration has appointed a former spokesperson as ambassador to China, the foreign affairs ministry said on Friday, its first officially accredited envoy to any country since taking over in 2021.

Former administration spokesman Bilal Karimi arrived in China late in November to take up the role, the Taliban-run foreign ministry said in a statement.

“He is the official accredited ambassador of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan to the People’s Republic of China,” ministry spokesman Abdul Qahar Balkhi told Reuters, adding that he was the first such envoy since the 2021 takeover.

China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment outside of office hours. The Chinese government has not said whether it regards the move as a step towards official recognition.

The previous Taliban official sent to run the Afghan embassy in Beijing was a charge d’affaires, a post that does not require presentation of ambassadorial credentials to the host, a step that depends on formal recognition of the envoy’s government.

No country, including China, has officially recognised the Taliban’s government since their takeover as US forces withdrew.

Afghanistan’s Taliban government slams lack of invite to COP28

In September, China became the first country to formally name a new ambassador to Afghanistan since the takeover. Several other nations have charges d’affaires or ambassadors who presented their credentials under the previous NATO-backed government.

The Taliban administration have said they plan to join President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road infrastructure project.

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