China can play role to find resolution to Syrian civil war that will spell defeat for Islamic State

With the US and Russia finally cooperating, Beijing should press ahead with plans to bring Syria’s warring factions together for a face-to-face meeting

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 December, 2015, 12:27am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 December, 2015, 12:27am

Only multilateral cooperation can defeat the global threat posed by Islamic State, which is a by-product of the Syrian civil war. And only a united effort spearheaded by the US and Russia can launch a negotiating process that can end the fighting. The UN Security Council’s unanimous adoption of a US-Russia initiative to bring the Syrian regime and rebel groups to the negotiating table is therefore doubly welcome. There was no alternative plan to halt the carnage and reduce IS sanctuary in Syria and Iraq, short of putting troops on the ground. While the US-led coalition partners remain unwilling to do this, it is an opportunity that must be pursued with unrelenting persistence.

READ MORE: China set to invite Syrian sides for talks to resolve Middle Eastern crisis

The entry of Russia into air hostilities over Syria, along with IS-linked atrocities in France and the US, has prompted a closing of the ranks of diplomatic rivals. Western powers have apparently softened demands that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, supported by Russia, stand aside as part of an agreement to end the civil war, and Russia now has to find a way to get him to the negotiating table.

The US-Russia initiative envisages an early ceasefire, perhaps next month. Equally important, if the plan brings Assad’s regime to the negotiating table, it will allow Russian and US-led forces to focus their aerial firepower on IS fighters and their economic lifelines, such as oil shipments.

All parties in the region must welcome offers of help from a concerned world. The Saudi Arabians, having formed an Arab coalition to join the fight, must join the global effort and spell out what they want to do.

READ MORE: President Xi Jinping condemns jihadist hotel attack in Mali, vows fight against terrorist activities to maintain ‘world peace’

China has an increasing role to play, in line with President Xi Jinping’s (習近平 ) pledge of support for international efforts to defeat extremist violence. In the wake of the Security Council resolution that it supported, Beijing has foreshadowed an invitation to Syrian government and rebel representatives to China for talks on political transition on the road to peace. Acceptance of such neutral invitations can do no harm to the climate for difficult negotiations ahead.