China has resumed operating direct commercial flights with Afghanistan after a gap of about three years in a sign of improving diplomatic ties between Kabul and Beijing, officials said.
The Taliban regime will have direct flights operating from Kabul airport – one of the country’s four international airports – to Urumqi in China every Wednesday, said Imamuddin Ahmadi, spokesman for the Taliban’s ministry of transport and civil aviation. Independent by phone call.
This would add to the list of 20 or 30 flights leaving Afghanistan every day, increasing the revenue of the country’s aviation sector. Afghanistan will use its flagship airline Ariana Afghan for direct flights to China.
There will be passenger flights as well, the ministry said.
This is the first time China has resumed direct flights to a country controlled by the Taliban since late 2019.
This has been joined by Russia, Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and India, all of which gradually resumed some direct flights after the fall of Kabul in August 2021.
The current daily flights from Afghanistan are mostly to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Turkey, said Ahmadi. After the collapse of the Ashraf Ghani regime in 2021, the country’s international airport was damaged and barely functioning.
But now, nearly two years after taking power, the Taliban have four functional international airports – Kabul, Kandahar, Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif – the spokesman said.
The hardline Islamic regime has yet to secure direct or connecting flights to the US or Europe.
The resumption of direct international flights will help Afghanistan’s economy and prove beneficial for political and commercial relations between Afghanistan and China, said Ghulam Jailani Wafa, the Taliban’s deputy transport minister and minister of civil aviation.
“This has a direct impact on the country’s economy, economic and political relations, and between the Islamic Emirate [of Afghanistan] and China and trade and the public,” the minister said at a ceremony held to announce the resumption of operations.
Ahmadi added that development will be a boost for the nation.
“This has several advantages for Afghanistan. Our economy will grow, there are some passengers who can bring goods from China, helping the trade relations those countries have,” said Ahmadi.
Businessmen from Afghanistan can now fly directly to China instead of having to take connecting flights, he said.
The ministry continues to open the door for other airlines to resume direct flights to China and other countries if, over time, they can find more passengers to travel to international destinations.
“We support this out of Afghanistan flight travel facility,” he said.
An official from the Chinese embassy said the resumption of flights would boost economic and trade cooperation between countries, TOLO news reports.
This comes as China and Afghanistan are getting closer. The countries have signed up for investment and financial projects this year in an effort to help the shunned regime rebuild its economy.
Earlier this month, the interim regime’s ministry of industry and commerce said China signed investment contracts worth around $2 billion in areas such as mine extraction, airport services and industrial parks.
China, along with Pakistan, has also supported calls to bridge the gap in humanitarian funding for Afghanistan, stating that such financial assistance should not be tied to “political considerations”.
Officials monitoring the Taliban’s moves to fund its economy have warned that aid to Afghanistan will fall sharply this year as donor countries seek to challenge restrictions on female aid workers imposed by the Taliban government and try to cope with escalating crises around the world.
“The ministers underlined that humanitarian support to the Afghan people must remain separate from any political considerations,” the foreign ministers of China, Pakistan and the Taliban said in a joint statement earlier this month.
China is Afghanistan’s “traditional friendly neighbor” and “believes that Afghanistan should not be excluded from the international community,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin, calling on the Taliban to radically reform policies against women and girls.
“The welfare and interests of the Afghan people deserve attention, Afghanistan’s peace and reconstruction process must be encouraged, and its sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected,” he said.