Amid international concern about the Taliban taking control of Afghanistan, China said on Monday that it was willing to deepen its “friendly and cooperative” ties with the country, AFP reported.

In Islamabad, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said Afghans had broken “the shackles of slavery”, even as thousands fearful of Taliban rule desperately tried to flee the war-torn country, according to Dawn.

Khan, while speaking at an event in the city, said cultural imposition was equivalent to “mental slavery”. “When you adopt someone’s culture you believe it to be superior and you end up becoming a slave to it,” he added.

Earlier in the day, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had said that a “negotiated settlement” is the way forward in Afghanistan. He said that Afghan leaders must take advantage of international convergence for the peace and reconciliation process, and that the international community must remain engaged with Afghan leaders.

Meanwhile, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said that Beijing “respects the right of the Afghan people to independently determine their own destiny”.

“The Taliban have repeatedly expressed their hope to develop good relations with China, and that they look forward to China’s participation in the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan...We welcome this,” she said.

The spokesperson urged the Taliban to ensure a smooth transition of power and to negotiate the establishment of an “open and inclusive Islamic government”, according to AFP.

This is not the first time that the Chinese regime has acknowledged the hardline armed group’s legitimacy. On July 28, when a Taliban delegation visited China, the country’s foreign minister Wang Yi had said that the Taliban is “an important military and political force in Afghanistan and is expected to play an important role in the country’s peace, reconciliation and reconstruction process”.

In a statement on Monday, the Chinese Embassy said that it does not plan to evacuate its staff from Afghanistan amid the conflict.

“The Chinese Embassy in Afghanistan has asked the various factions in Afghanistan to ensure the safety of Chinese citizens, Chinese institutions and Chinese interests in Afghanistan,” said the statement.

The United States’ Embassy in Afghanistan has suspended operations, and urged its citizens to take shelter and not try to get to the airport, AP reported. South Korea has also temporarily closed its embassy in Kabul and taken most of its staff members to an unspecified third country.

On Sunday evening, an Air India flight with 129 passengers on board reached Delhi from Kabul safely.

Taliban takes over

The Taliban took over power in Afghanistan on Sunday, after which President Ashraf Ghani left the country for neighbouring Tajikistan.

The Taliban have made rapid advances in large parts of the country over the past few weeks.

Clashes between the Taliban and Afghan forces escalated as foreign troops prepared to withdraw from the country by the end of August. More than 1,000 people have been killed in Afghanistan in the last month, the BBC reported, citing the United Nations.