Beijing's policy on Syria 'responsible'
Updated: 2012-04-11 07:08
By Li Xiaokun (China Daily)
Veto of UN resolution was 'right decision'
China will stick to a policy of "responsible protection" regarding the unrest in Syria, a senior diplomat said on Tuesday.
The remarks came as a deadline passed for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's troops to start withdrawing from populated areas, as agreed to in an internationally brokered truce deal. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said on Tuesday that the government has already withdrawn forces from some Syrian cities. His claim has not been confirmed.
"Recently, China and Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution draft on Syria. Some people accuse China and Russia of not being 'cooperative' or 'responsible'. In my view, our decision was the responsible one," Assistant Foreign Minister Le Yucheng, a key figure of China's foreign policy establishment, said during a speech on China's foreign policies at the China Institute of International Studies. More than 100 foreign diplomats attended the speech.
"We should not forget the lesson in Libya," Le said.
On the first day of the NATO-led multinational forces' "protection" mission in Libya last year, 64 civilians were killed and 150 were injured, he said.
The entire "protection" mission resulted in the deaths of more than 20,000 civilians and the displacement of 900,000 people without bringing the country together or ending violence, Le said.
"Such 'protection' has been linked to a 'successful surgery that kills the patient'," Le said, adding it is an irresponsible move that actually aims at intervening in other countries' affairs under the flag of "protection".
"China does not do things just to please certain countries. China never takes its cue from others or pays the bill without asking the price," he said.
"Being responsible means saying 'no' to such 'protection'. What we need is not just 'the responsibility to protect' but also 'responsible protection'."
Le said he disagrees with the argument that China fails to fulfill its responsibility as a large country.
"China has all along been responsible ... it has been sticking to independent foreign policies and upholding justice and principles on international affairs without seeking its own interests," the senior official said.
A major principle that China follows is non-intervention, he said, adding it is also an important rule of the UN Charter.
"It is based on a basic stance that upholds equal sovereignties, that large and small countries are all equal. It should be the people of a country who decide the nation's internal affairs, including what path it follows and what policies it adopts."
The international community can only resort to force to protect the people of a country when all peaceful means have failed, while the UN is the only entity authorized to use force, he said.
"As long as there is still hope of a peaceful resolution in Syria, why should we resort to armed force?" Qu Xing, director of the China Institute of International Studies, told China Daily after the speech.
The Syrian government is supposed to draw back its troops from populated areas on Tuesday ahead of a cease-fire on Thursday, according to the peace plan it agreed to with UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.
Muallem, in Moscow for talks with his Russian counterpart, said on Tuesday that the government has already withdrawn some forces from some Syrian cities and that the UN-brokered cease-fire must start simultaneously with the deployment of the international observer mission.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says it saw no signs of large-scale troop pullback on Tuesday and that most areas of Syria appeared calm. This is a sharp contrast to heavy attacks by Syrian forces on restive towns in recent days.
Russia on Tuesday called on the opposition as well as countries that "influence them" to use their powers to bring about the cease-fire.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday that Syria's government "could have been more active and decisive" in implementing the peace plan.
He also called for a speedy deployment of international observers - including Russians - in the country.
France, however, said on Tuesday that Syria was not implementing the retreat plan.
The Syrian claim was "a new expression of a flagrant and unacceptable lie" that "shows a degree of impunity against which the international community absolutely must act", French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said.
Valero said the issue would be discussed at the UN Security Council in New York and by foreign ministers of the G8 major economies when they meet this week in Washington.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Tuesday cut short his trip to China and will return home to tackle fresh developments on the Turkish-Syrian border, the semi-official Anatolia news agency reported.
Davutoglu was accompanying Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan in an official visit to China.
On Monday, Syrian forces opened fire across the Turkish and Lebanese borders, killing a TV journalist in Lebanon and wounding at least six people in a refugee camp in Turkey.
AP contributed to this story.