Syrian people must decide future, says Wang Yi ahead of Geneva talks

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 January, 2014, 11:28pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 January, 2014, 1:06am

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi has again called for a political resolution of the Syria crisis ahead of long-awaited peace talks in Geneva tomorrow.

Speaking to Chinese state media ahead of his trip to attend the Geneva II talks - the first face-to-face meeting between the Syrian government and the opposition since the crisis began in March 2011 - Wang said the country's future should be decided by the Syrian people.

"The international community must uphold the UN Charter and the basic norms governing international relations, be committed to maintaining Syria's sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity and respect the will and choice of the Syrian people," Wang said.

China and Russia had previously angered the US by vetoing a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for tough action against the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad. China rejected setting the removal of Assad from power as the precondition of tomorrow's talks, raising concerns about the division between Beijing and Washington on the issue.

Wang said yesterday that the talks should also focus on promoting an inclusive political transition process in order to restore stability and order.

He also called for reconciliation among all parties in Syria and enhanced humanitarian assistance from the international community.

The conference ran into trouble yesterday after the Syrian opposition threatened to pull out because UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon invited Iran. The Syrian National Coalition, the main political opposition group, said it would boycott the talks unless Iran accepts an international plan adopted in 2012 that calls for a transitional government.

The United States also insisted it expects the UN to withdraw an invitation to Iran unless Tehran fully supports the 2012 agreement. Iran rejected any precondition for the talks.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse