China urges two sides in Syria to meet halfway
Updated: 2014-04-16 01:22
By Pu Zhendong (China Daily)
Beijing is pressing for talks between the Syrian government and opposition to establish a "middle way", a foreign ministry spokeswoman said, as a key opposition figure arrived in Beijing on Tuesday.
Ahmad Jarba, president of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, arrived in the capital for a four-day visit. Jarba is set to meet Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Vice-Foreign Minister Zhang Ming on Wednesday.
Talks will focus on efforts to reach a political settlement to the conflict in Syria, now in its fourth year. Chinese experts and scholars will also have the chance to interact with Jarba’s delegation.
"Hosting the delegation of the National Coalition is part of the efforts made by China to work on all relevant parties in a positive and balanced way and push for the political settlement of the Syrian issue," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at Monday’s news conference.
Hua said the Syrian government and opposition should take an important step forward toward political settlement under the framework of the Geneva II Conference that took place in Switzerland in January.
"What is pressing now is that the two parties in Syria should convene the third round of talks as soon as possible, understand and accommodate each other, and meet each other halfway," she said.
In September, China also received a six-member delegation of Syrian opposition representatives, led by Berwin Ibrahim, secretary-general of Syria’s National Youth Party for Justice and Development.
Yao Kuangyi, former Chinese ambassador to Turkey and an expert on the Middle East, said China has changed its previous approach of passively reacting to developments in Middle Eastern affairs to one of actively engaging in the peace process, as seen in the frequent visits by Syrian political figures.
"China has been consistently promoting peace talks and repeatedly urging the end of violence in Syria," Yao said. "As a neutral party, China can ask the two sides to sit down and negotiate toward a solution."
Li Shaoxian, a researcher of Middle Eastern studies at China Institutes of Contemporary Relations, said political reconciliation still poses a chronic challenge for Syria.
"The door of peace process will only be open when domestic conflicts and violence finally end," Li said.
On Saturday, Syrian TV reported that the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front used toxic gas, possibly chlorine, in the central province of Hama, killing at least two people and injuring 100 others. Opposition activists denied the accusation.
Hua said China is firmly opposed to any use of chemical weapons, since such use runs counter to the norms of international law widely accepted by the international community.
"We call on all parties to cherish the progress achieved so far, exercise restraint, build up consensus, complete as soon as possible the removal and destruction of chemical weapons in Syria through practical cooperation, and create favorable conditions for the political settlement of the Syrian issue," she said.
The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution in September under which the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was mandated to oversee the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons materials.
On Monday, the OPCW said Syria has surrendered almost two-thirds of its chemical weapons with the resumption of transfers from the war-torn country, AFP reported.
"The deliveries have raised the overall portion of chemicals removed from Syria to 65.1 percent, including 57.4 percent of priority chemicals," it reported in a statement in The Hague.
Under the terms of the deal brokered by the United States and Russia last year, Syria has to destroy its chemical weapons before the end of June to ward off the threat of US air strikes.
The agreement was reached after deadly chemical attacks outside Damascus last August that the West blamed on President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
Xinhua and AFP contributed to this story.