China calls for restraint on Syria
Updated: 2013-08-29 11:54
By China Daily-Xinhua-Reuters (China Daily)
China says that a political resolution is the only realistic way out of the crisis in Syria and has called on all parties to show restraint and remain calm, as US President Barack Obama said no decision has been made on whether to launch military strikes on Damascus, which is alleged to have used chemical weapons on its own people.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Wednesday told Xinhua news agency that China "firmly" opposes the use of chemical weapons in Syria, but he also warned external military intervention is against the UN Charter and basic principles of international relations and could make the situation in the Middle East more volatile.
Wang said China supports the UN's independent, objective, impartial and professional investigation.
As one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, China's attitude on Syria has drawn a lot of international attention, especially after Russia voiced strong opposition to any military intervention.
China's Foreign Ministry also warned its citizens not to travel to Syria and to exercise caution if they plan to travel to neighboring countries of Syria.
UN special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi said on Wednesday in Geneva that there was evidence to suggest that some kind of chemical "substance" was used in Syria and more than 1,000 people may have died because of it.
However, he said any military strikes must be approved by the UN Security Council.
The US and its allies are considering launching strikes on Syria in response to deadly alleged chemical attacks last week in eastern Ghouta in the countryside near of Damascus, which claimed hundreds of lives.
The Syrian government and opposition groups have exchanged accusations about the use of chemical weapons. Syria has allowed UN inspectors access to probe for evidence of chemical weapons in eastern Ghouta.
Syria's representative to the UN, Bashar Ja'afari, on Wednesday called on the UN to investigate three alleged chemical weapons attacks against Syrian soldiers.
He said dozens of soldiers were injured by the attacks on Aug 22, 24 and 25 in three suburbs of Damascus.
President Obama said on Wednesday that no decision on military strikes has been made yet, while warning the Syrian government that it must face "international consequences".
However, he said the choice now is not whether to act, but when.
"We have concluded that the Syrian government in fact carried these [attacks] out, and if that's so, then there need to be international consequences," Obama told the PBS Newshour in a televised interview.
There were growing signs, however, that the timeline for launching any military strike on Syria could be complicated not only by the UN weapons inspectors' continued presence there, but also by the Obama administration's efforts to coordinate with international partners and growing demands for consultation with US lawmakers, Reuters reported.
The United Kingdom, a major ally of the US and a strong advocate of punishing the Syrian government, changed its position on Wednesday by saying the UN Security Council should look into the findings of investigations before any military action is taken.
For his part, Obama insisted that while Assad's government must be punished, he intended to avoid repeating Washington's errors from the Iraq war.
"I have no interest in any open-ended conflict in Syria," Obama said, "but we do have to make sure that when countries break international norms on weapons like chemical weapons that could threaten us, that they are held accountable."
In Damascus on Wednesday, people evacuated homes close to potential targets, as US officials sketched out plans for multi-national air strikes on Syria that could last for days.
UN chemical weapons experts completed a second field trip on Wednesday to rebel-held suburbs searching for evidence.
Britain pushed the other four veto-holding members of the UN Security Council at a meeting in New York to authorize military action against the Bashar al-Assad regime. The meeting ended without a decision.
The US and its allies say a UN veto will not stop them. Western diplomats called the proposed resolution a maneuver to isolate Moscow and rally a coalition behind air strikes. Arab states, NATO and Turkey also condemned Assad.
But British Prime Minister David Cameron was forced on Wednesday to push back his timetable after coming under fierce domestic and international pressure, and it was unclear how that might affect any Syria attack plans.
Just a day after recalling Britain's parliament to vote on how to respond to Syria's suspected use of chemical weapons, Cameron was ambushed when the opposition Labour party said it wanted greater parliamentary scrutiny and rebellious lawmakers in his own ruling Conservative Party said they would oppose him.
(China Daily USA 08/29/2013 page1)