China and US in close contact over Syria, Iran

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 March, 2012, 12:00am


Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi says China and the United States have maintained close contact over Syria and Iran, despite their disagreements on how to handle both crises.

At a press conference on the sidelines of the annual session of the National People's Congress in Beijing yesterday, Yang stressed that both issues should be resolved through dialogue rather than intervention and confrontation.

China has been criticised for backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime after vetoing a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Assad's handling of unrest in his country. China has sent Li Huaxin, its former ambassador to Damascus, to Syria to promote a six-point plan unveiled by Beijing at the weekend that is designed to curb conflict in the country.

Under the plan, other powers are warned not to use humanitarian aid as a pretext to interfere in Syria.

It calls for an immediate, unconditional ceasefire by all parties involved.

Yang said the plan had gained support and China believed the issue should be resolved by the people of the Middle East.

'Over the years, China has been a firm supporter of the just cause of Arab countries and their people,' he said. 'The two sides have forged a deep friendship. We have no historical grievances, but expanding common interest.

'It is true that China and some Arab countries may sometimes differ, but the two sides have the same overall objective of safeguarding stability, development and prosperity in the region.'

On Iran's nuclear programme, Yang reiterated Beijing's opposition to Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

'We are opposed to the development and possession of nuclear weapons by any country in the Middle East, including Iran,' he said, while adding Tehran had the right to peaceful use of nuclear energy.

'We are opposed to imposing unilateral sanctions and I believe that the majority of countries in the world take such a position,' Yang said.

Washington has demanded that Beijing take tougher action against Tehran, a major supplier of oil to China.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton described Beijing's veto of the UN Security Council resolution on Syria as despicable.

Beijing hit back at Clinton, saying that her criticism was unacceptable.

Despite these differences, Yang gave an upbeat assessment of the Sino-US relationship, saying it had been given a strong boost by Vice-President Xi Jinping's US trip last month.

However, he called on the two sides to engage in more dialogue to enhance trust, the US to honour its commitment to China and carefully handle the issues of Taiwan and Tibet.

'We should work together to increase mutual trust, remove various 'disturbances' and open the prospect of two big countries embracing healthy interaction and win-win co-operation,' he said.

Yang said China welcomed US involvement in the Asia-Pacific region, where Washington is boosting its influence and strengthening ties with countries involved in territorial disputes with China.

'We are ready to work with the US and other countries in this region to develop an Asia-Pacific that enjoys greater stability and development,' he said.

'At the same time, we hope the US will respect China's core interests and concerns.'

Yang dismissed concerns that China's neighbours feared its rise.

'Their worry is that China develops too slowly. These countries want to see the sustained momentum of the Chinese economy,' he said.

One of the crucial spheres of China's foreign relations is the Sino-Japanese relationship.

Yang said China attached importance to Sino-Japanese ties as the two countries had had normalised diplomatic relations for 40 years, but urged Tokyo to 'properly handle sensitive issues', such as disputes concerning the Diaoyu Islands.

'It is crucial for both sides to view each other's development from an objective and strategic perspective, and truly see each other as an opportunity and partner for development.'

Yang said China would continue its independent foreign policy, focused on peaceful development, and work with other countries to achieve mutual prosperity.