China's Efforts to Help Solve the Crisis in Syria Can Withstand Test of Time
By WU SIKE
AFTER a year of conflict and unrest, the situation in Syria remains serious and its people continue to suffer gravely. The country commands the attention of the entire international community, but different parties have different opinions on how best to help the Syrian people out of their desperate plight.
As a bridge that connects Asia, Europe and Africa, Syria has long been perceived as the heart of the Middle East, and as a country that intertwines with others in West Asia and North Africa, in terms of ethnicity, religion and ideology. Syria has also played an important role in core issues in the region, such as peace talks between Palestine and Israel, Iraq, the war against terrorism, Iran’s nuclear policy, and the Kurdish problem. During my 40 or more years working in the field of West Asian and North African affairs I have gained a profound understanding of the significance of Syria’s strategic location. I therefore know that developments in its situation will affect the future of the whole region. As Henry Kissinger once said: “You can’t make peace without Syria in the Middle East” – a comment based on historical experience.
Demonstrators protest against military intervention in Syria outside President Barack Obama’s national campaign headquarters in Chicago, Illinois. CFP
Something is seriously wrong with the so-called heart of the Middle East, and relevant members of the international community have raised their respective prescriptions. But as the heart is such a vital organ, great care must be taken in the use of appropriate medicine. What now needs to be done is to make an immediate end to violence, because the casualties it inflicts on innocent people will inevitably undermine rationality. Attempting to suppress clashes through another round of brute force will only prolong such violence, and bring catastrophic results.
We must adopt political means to safeguard the fundamental and long-term interests of the Syrian people, and peace and stability in Syria and all of West Asia and North Africa. We must stop violence immediately to eradicate the cause of the crisis, and promote political talks among all parties concerned in Syria. The Syrian government should listen to appeals from the people and to their demands for change and development. These political talks should be inclusive, entailing participation in the dialogue of all political forces, including those of the Syrian government and opposition. Common ground will be eventually reached as long as all parties make efforts with one accord.
Of course, no political solution can be adopted at the expense of Syria’s sovereignty, independence, unity or territorial integrity. Syria has a long history and brilliant culture, and the Syrian people have both the ability and wisdom to settle the crisis and find the development path best suited to their national conditions. The future of Syria should and can only be decided by the Syrian people. Outside interference will only introduce new conflict and exacerbate an already serious situation. There is much to be learned and considered by virtue of what happened in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
The humanitarian situation in Syria is understandably polarizing wide attention, but should not be politicized or used as an excuse for military intervention. It would be appropriate for a neutral body, agreed on by all parties concerned, to carry out an objective and comprehensive assessment of the situation in Syria and develop a mechanism to transport and distribute humanitarian aid and supplies. As the UN is experienced in this respect, it should work as the main coordinator.
As a good friend of Syria and other Arab countries, China attaches great importance to it and cares about the Arab people. The country has always done its utmost to safeguard peace and stability in the Middle East. We hope that Syria can solve and emerge from its plight as soon as possible. As a responsible big country, China never puts its own interests first and is neither partial to nor against any party. China hopes to contribute to solving the Syria crisis through promoting peaceful dialogue. It has maintained close contacts with relevant parties and expressed on many occasions the belief that political means are the best way of restoring order in Syria.
With respect to China’s basic stance on the situation in West Asia and North Africa, first and foremost, China endorses the rights of countries in the region to deal with their internal affairs, and respects the people’s demands for change and development. It moreover supports the political transition of certain countries and trusts that they and their peoples have the ability to find the development path best suited to their national conditions. Second, China hopes that relevant parties in the region will reduce differences through political dialogue, seek peaceful solutions, avoid violence and armed conflict, and restore stability and order as soon as possible. Third, China appeals to the international community and countries in the region to respect the purposes of the UN Charter and norms of international laws, to play a constructive role in easing tension, and to oppose external military intervention or sanctions. The leading role of the UN in promoting stability and reconstruction should come into play and the voices of regional organizations should be heard. Fourth, China calls upon the international community to strengthen economic assistance to and cooperation with the region, promote solutions to Palestine-Israel disputes and the Iranian nuclear issue and create favorable conditions for regional stability and development.
Not long ago, certain Arab peoples that had been misled by certain Western media misunderstood China’s position, mistakenly believing that the Chinese government supports the Assad Regime. China’s posture at the Security Council, however, is focused on the overall interests of the Syrian government and people, as well as on stability in the whole region. Both China’s representatives at the UN and the Chinese government have repeatedly emphasized that China does not support any specific party or regime in the Syria issue; it rather supports inclusive dialogue through political and peaceful means to fulfill people’s aspirations. Violence can thus be curbed and Syria prevented from sliding into civil war, which would be disastrous to Syria and trigger unrest in the whole region. As a permanent member of the Security Council, China is deeply aware of its responsibilities to strictly follow the principles of the UN Charter and international relations norms in safeguarding the fundamental and long-term interests of developing countries.
Last February I revisited the Middle East in my capacity as China’s Middle East envoy. There I met with people of various circles within and outside government, and we exchanged views on the complicated and sensitive Syria issue. Many far-sighted people praised China’s approach. Promoting peaceful dialogue is the best way of solving the crisis in Syria, but it demands more joint efforts, patience and wisdom on the part of relevant parties and the common understanding and cooperation of the world’s big countries.
History will eventually prove that it is in the Syrian people’s interests to solve the crisis through political means. Its settlement will play a key role in maintaining the stability of the whole region. China’s unremitting efforts can withstand the test of time and history, and Syria will become an independent, stable, peaceful and prosperous nation. This is the common aspiration of the Syrian people and the sincere wish of the Chinese people and peoples throughout the world.