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18th Aug 2017

Dont expect 'quick fix' in Syria, China tells EU

  • In Aleppo in December. Peace efforts in Syria will "meet difficulties, twists and turns, ups and downs, flips-flops", China's special envoy said. (Photo: Reuters/Abdalrhman Ismail)

The EU should not expect a "quick fix" in Syria, China's special envoy on the issue said on Tuesday (25 April), warning that "imposing a solution" from the outside would "not be workable".

Xie Xiaoyan was in Brussels for the second time in a month and met officials from the EU external service before heading to Moscow. He told a group of journalists that China, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, had a "shared interest" with the EU to find a political solution in Syria.

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He said that Beijing agreed with the EU on the need to have a cease-fire and a political discussion on "a transitional authority, democratic elections and a rewriting of a constitution".

While describing the talks with EU diplomats as a "useful, informative discussion", Xie admitted that China and the EU "may have different approaches as to how to resolve the crisis".

He said that all parties involved, including the EU, should be aware that they would "meet difficulties, twists and turns, ups and downs, flips-flops".

"It will not be a smooth sailing," he said, adding that the 6-year old conflict was "the most complicated issue in [his] diplomatic career", because "there are so many players".

Earlier this month, EU foreign affairs ministers said that "there can be no lasting peace in Syria under the current regime" of Bashar el Assad.

But for the Chinese envoy, "regime change will bring disaster" in Iraq and Libya, where Western powers took dictators Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi down.

"External forces have a role to play but there is a line beyond which it is meddling in internal affairs of another country," said Xie, insisting on a fundamental principle of China's diplomacy.

He said that the future of the Syrian regime and of its leader - whose name he didn't use - as well as what kind of government would replace it, are "in nature internal affairs of Syria".

"It's not our job to make a pre-judgement, it's not our duty to decide the future of that particular person," he added.

"Don't think we are more clever than the Syrian people himself," he insisted.

He said that China "strongly advocates" the Syrian regime and the opposition to "engage in serious discussions and make progress". He added that both sides "should abandon the illusion that they can win militarily".

The Chinese Syria envoy said that Beijing could talk with all parties involved in Syria, in the region and at a global level, and that it wanted to be "bridge the gaps" between all.

Common interest

He also suggested that no solution would be found if China's position were not taken into account.

He said that if the UN Security Council, where Beijing holds veto power, was "split", it would "reduce its effectiveness".

He said that despite the US shifting positions under president Donald Trump, Washington would play "a very important if not a vital role". He also said that the influence of Russia, whose army is in Syria to support Assad, would "remain very strong".

He added that if the US and Russia could "continue their dialogue" it would be "a good omen for the region and for everybody".

For the EU, his message was that "consultation and coordination" are needed.

"We don't have to see eye to eye on all the major issues," he noted. "As long as we have one common interest, we can work together."

Aleppo's fate overshadows EU summit

EU leaders called for evacuations and aid, but admitted "we have to stand there watching", as Syrian regime, Russia, and Iran committed what some called "war crimes".

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