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Syrian conflict

Xi Jinping appeals to Britain and Turkey to cool down Syria conflict after US-led bombings

Chinese president warns against escalating the war and calls for investigation into Assad’s suspected chemical attacks

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 April, 2018, 1:18pm
UPDATED : Friday, 20 April, 2018, 9:39pm

China rejected the use of force in interventions in the ongoing Syrian war and called for an inquiry into President Bashar al-Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons, days after the US and its allies launched punitive air strikes in the Middle Eastern country.

Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed an urgent need to cool down the situation in Syria to avoid an “intensification and expansion of the conflict” during phone calls on Thursday with British Prime Minister Theresa May and Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“A comprehensive, fair and objective investigation into the suspected Syrian chemical attacks is necessary to reach a reliable conclusion that can withstand the test of history, and to strive to reach a resolution to the Syrian issue as soon as possible,” Xi was quoted as saying by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV. 

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His remarks came after the US, UK and France jointly struck three targets in Syria last week in response to the Syrian government’s suspected use of chemical weapons in the town of Douma, a bombing that represented the biggest intervention by Western powers against Assad.

The civil war in Syria broke out six years ago, and has escalated into a bloody conflict that has embroiled the region and devastated the country, forcing millions to flee from their homes. Multiple factions have been fighting in the war, including a US-led international coalition targeting Islamic State militant forces.

China has so far avoided playing a direct role in the war, in contrast to neighbouring Russia, an ally to Assad that has denied the alleged chemical attack. But Beijing has consistently voted with Moscow to veto UN sanctions proposals against the Assad government.

On Thursday, Xi’s conversations with May and Erdogan emphasised that the use of chemical weapons was unacceptable, as his British and Turkish counterparts backed the US-led air strikes.

China opposes Western air strikes on Syria, calls for talks

May told Xi that Russia’s “blocking of diplomatic actions” outlined the need for an independent mechanism to investigate attacks such as the one in Douma, the prime minister’s office said in a statement.

Britain and China also agreed to further enhance bilateral relations, described as being in a “golden age”, and discussed trade issues, CCTV reported.

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Meanwhile, Xi and Erdogan agreed on a need to protect Syria’s territorial integrity and independence, and to work within the framework of the rule of law, CCTV said.

The two leaders also discussed the development of their strategic cooperation, including Chinese investments in Turkey under Beijing’s signature Belt and Road Initiative.