China, Philippines should settle dispute between themselves: Serbian Scholar

Updated: 2016-07-03 12:35


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BELGRADE - A Serbian scholar and politician has urged the Philippines to settle the South China Sea dispute directly with China, warning failure to solve disputes bilaterally would result in permanent and even armed conflict.

Experience in the Balkans has taught us that when two sides fail to settle disputes bilaterally, the disputes would prolong and evolve into permanent conflicts - even armed conflicts, Zarko Obradovic, an MP and vice president of the Socialist Party of Serbia, told Xinhua in a recent interview.

The Philippines should not have initiated its dispute with China over the South China Sea at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, but instead should solve it directly with China, said Obradovic, who is also author of several books on Balkan geopolitics.

"We had territorial disputes in the Balkans, and if two countries did not come out with a solution directly, in negotiations, which would satisfy both, then this problem would continue to exist for a long time, and would become a source for permanent conflicts, instability, and sometimes even armed conflicts," he said.

There were a number of reasons for the Philippines to call for arbitration over the issue. There was public pressure domestically, and internationally, the country was influenced by the United States, Obradovic said.

"Internal reasons might be some upcoming elections for parliament or president, while foreign political reasons are related to a major global power. I think that their move is illogical and will not bring them any benefit," he said.

A resolution reached through direct negotiations would abide by the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, signed between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries in 2002, including the Philippines, he said.

The Philippines' call for arbitration is neither based on international convention nor on mutual consent, Obradovic said.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration is authorized to make decisions on matters where mutual consent exists and if the request is made in accordance with international conventions. In this case, "I think any decision will be unilateral and will not be in the interest of maintaining good neighborhood relations between China and Philippines," he said.

Obradovic said the very fact that the United States aligned with the Philippines against China in the case indicates that Washington has some expectations on the upcoming verdict.

"I think that the United States should not have interfered in their relations because, by supporting the Philippines it directly demonstrated its interests that the verdict should be in favor of the Philippines," he said.

It is against the interest of the whole region to have the US claiming immediate interests in the surrounding area, he warned.

Obradovic noted that China and ASEAN, including the Philippines, pledged to resolve all disputes peacefully and bilaterally in the 2002 declaration.

"I cannot understand why that after 14 years during which there was at least a readiness to talk, suddenly this issue has reached the level of international arbitration, without attempting to find a solution in bilateral negotiations," he said.