China pushes for speedy political solution in Iraq

BEIJING, July 8 Mon Jul 7, 2014 10:22pm EDT

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BEIJING, July 8 (Reuters) - China hopes that Iraq can form a new inclusive government as soon as possible and will support efforts by Baghdad to protect its sovereignty, state media cited China's special envoy to the Middle East as saying on a visit to a key energy supplier.

China is Iraq's largest oil client, and its state energy firms, which include PetroChina, Sinopec Group and CNOOC Ltd, together hold more than a fifth of Iraq's oil projects after securing some of its fields through auctions in 2009.

China has repeatedly expressed concern about the upsurge in violence in Iraq and the march of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which has seized much of the north of the country as Baghdad's forces there collapsed.

ISIL has renamed itself the Islamic State and proclaimed the establishment of a "caliphate" on land it has captured in Syria and Iraq.

"China remains steadfast in supporting the Iraqi government to protect its sovereignty and independence, and to crack down on terrorism," state news agency Xinhua quoted China's Middle East envoy Wu Sike as telling Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

"Beijing hopes that all sections of Iraqi society can promote unity and consensus and form as quickly as possible a new government that highlights inclusiveness and can represent all political powers in the country," Wu added, in comments reported late on Monday.

Iraq's new parliament put off its next session for five weeks on Monday, extending the country's political paralysis.

Wu said that China was urging the international community to step up its aid to Iraq, as "the stability of Iraq is key to the peace and stability of the entire Middle East, as well as that of the world".

China will keep offering political, humanitarian and material assistance and hopes Iraq can continue to protect Chinese companies and workers, Wu added.

China last month evacuated more than 1,000 of its workers who had been trapped by the fighting.

Despite China's reliance on the Middle East for a large part of its energy needs to feed a booming economy, Beijing remains a low-key diplomatic player in the region, having neither the experience nor the ability to get more deeply involved. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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