China says it will make efforts on Syria reconstruction

BEIJING (Reuters) - China hopes Syria can show “flexibility” in promoting peace talks, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Friday in a meeting with an adviser to Syria’s president, adding that China would help with its reconstruction.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi addresses the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 21, 2017. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/Files

Syria’s six-year-old civil war has killed hundreds of thousands of people, forced millions to flee in the worst refugee crisis since World War Two and embroiled regional and world powers.

For years, Western and Arab countries backed an opposition demand that President Bashar al-Assad quit power, but since Russia’s 2015 entry into the war, his government has won back major cities and now looks militarily unassailable.

Leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran agreed on Wednesday to help support a full-scale political process in Syria and announced an agreement to sponsor a conference in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi to try to end the war.

Syria is looking chiefly to Russia, China and Iran for help with reconstruction. Western states say recovery and reconstruction support for Syria depends on “a credible political process leading to a genuine political transition that can be supported by a majority of the Syrian people”.

Wang told Bouthaina Shaaban, a senior aide to Assad visiting China, that engagement over the future of Syria’s political arrangements had intensified, and that he believed it would contribute to a formal peace process talks in Geneva.

“China hopes the Syrian side can seize the opportunity, display flexibility, and promote dialogue and negotiation to achieve substantive results,” Wang said, according to a statement from China’s foreign ministry.

“The international community should emphasize and actively support Syria’s reconstruction. China will put forth its own effort for this,” Wang said, without elaborating on what those efforts would be.

Shaaban welcomed China playing a greater role in Syria’s political resolution process, the ministry said.

While relying on the Middle East for oil supplies, China tends to leave the region’s diplomacy to the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, namely the United States, Britain, France and Russia.

But China has been trying to get more involved, including sending envoys to help push for a diplomatic solution to the violence there and hosting Syrian government and opposition figures.

China hopes a peaceful Middle East will also help end the involvement of ethnic Uighurs, a Muslim people from the far western Chinese region of Xinjiang, with militant groups in Syria and Iraq.

Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Robert Birsel and WIlliam Maclean