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Foreign Minister Wang Yi Meeting Chinese and Foreign Journalists on the Margins of the Geneva II Conference On Syria in Montreux, Switzerland

On 22 January 2014, Foreign Minister Wang Yi gave an interview to Chinese and foreign journalists after attending the Geneva II Conference on Syria in Montreux, Switzerland. The following is how the interview went about.

Wang Yi: It is a great pleasure to recap the Geneva II Conference on Syria together with friends from the press today.

Now, representatives of more than 40 participant countries, China included, and several important regional organizations gather here for the conference under the auspices of the United Nations (UN) with one single objective of finding a political solution to the Syrian issue. Different countries may look at the issue from different perspectives. However, today’s discussion has produced some important consensus in the international community. Agreement has been reached at least on the following points: first, the issue must be resolved through political means. Military action is no answer to the issue, nor will it take us anywhere. Second, the process of peace talks between the two parties to the conflict in Syria must be launched as quickly as possible. This is the only way out for this issue. Third, it is important to work together to improve the humanitarian situation on the ground and help ease the suffering of the Syrian refugees.

China has all along maintained that the issue of Syria must be resolved through political means. Thanks to the concerted efforts of various parties in recent years, the process of political settlement and dialogue has finally begun. China played an active and positive role in making sure the Geneva II Conference take place as scheduled. The process of political settlement will not be a smooth one. There are bound to be difficulties and twists and turns along the way. China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, will stay committed to promoting the negotiation process until there is a solution acceptable to all sides.

Now I am ready to take your questions.

Xinhua News Agency: What is China’s basic position on how to solve the Syrian issue?

Wang Yi: Before I came here, the Chinese side had officially put forward its five-point proposal on the political settlement of the issue of Syria, which is known to all and it is not necessary for me to repeat here. The very core of the proposal is to seek a political settlement and respect the will and choice of the Syrian people. The two parties to the conflict in Syria will begin direct negotiations the day after tomorrow. Given the complexity of the issue, the peace talks are expected to be a fairly long process. China is of the view that a follow-up mechanism should be set up at the outset to keep the talks going. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council should play their due role in this process, so should major regional countries that have a direct stake in the issue. Second, it is essential to urge both sides in the Syrian conflict to agree on a general framework on the direction and principles of the negotiations early on in their talks rather than tackling those issues on which the two sides have sharply conflicting views at the very beginning, dragging the negotiations into endless wrangles. Third, it is important for the talks to produce some early results, such as disengagement and phased local ceasefire before a final comprehensive ceasefire so as to create the necessary conditions and atmosphere for the talks to go forward. They may also release arbitrarily detained persons to show their sincerity and goodwill for the talks. Still, they could be more cooperative and more ready to offer facilities to ease the humanitarian situation. The peace talks should be under the UN auspices and should follow the principles of tackling easier issues first, seeking incremental progress and continuing the process without interruption.

CCTV: You have just summarized on today's meeting. What in your view are its main achievements?

Wang Yi: There may be differing views. As far as China is concerned, convening the meeting as scheduled is an achievement in itself. The fact that the two parties to the Syrian conflict talked to each other under the same roof for the first time is an important achievement. What is more, the international community reached major consensus on the political solution to the Syrian issue, which is also an important achievement of the meeting.

The intricate complexity of the Syrian issue and the profound differences between the two parties could be sensed from their remarks today. We therefore maintain that the peace talks should be a continuous process, a general direction which should be adhered to no matter what difficulties or setbacks it may encounter. It must go on until a result acceptable to all parties can be found. In addition, the peace talks should be an open platform. As has been noticed, the Syrian government has sent its delegation, but many factions of the Syrian opposition were absent from the meeting. That is why we want these talks to be open so that all Syrian factions which are willing to talk peace and work for peaceful solution to the Syrian issue can join in at any time to play a constructive role in the political settlement of the Syrian issue.

Phoenix TV: Given its long-standing position for a political solution, what positive role did China play during the meeting? What did China do to facilitate such a solution on the sidelines of the meeting?

Wang Yi: This is indeed a pertinent question that in fact asks about China's role in addressing regional hot-spot issues.

As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China shoulders responsibilities and obligations for world peace and stability, and stands ready to play a duty-bound, constructive and responsible role in seeking peaceful solutions to regional hot-spot issues. The following are the principles that China has consistently abided by in promoting settlement of the Syrian and other hot-spot issues:

First, we firmly uphold the purposes of the UN Charter and basic norms governing international relations, particularly the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of countries. Second, we believe that regional hot-spot issues should be settled under the UN framework, including relevant UN resolutions. Third, we stand for resolving disputes through peaceful means, oppose wilful use of force and disprove of subverting a legitimate government by illegal means. Fourth, we determine China's position by judging the matter on its own merits, upholding justice while being objective and balanced, and never using these issues to seek selfish interests. Fifth, we respect the views and aspirations of the people in the countries concerned, trying our best to help the parties find a mutually-acceptable solution.

The Chinese way of doing things has some unique features. We pay a lot more attention to seeking a solution in a sustainable, incremental and fundamental fashion. Let me just call it the "Chinese way".

With respect to the Syrian issue, we have indeed made a lot of efforts. When war seemed touch and go, China played a positive role in ensuring that the Syrian issue be brought back to the UN framework. To help ease the humanitarian situation in Syria, China provided multiple batches of humanitarian aid to that country. China also offered equipment and materials necessary for destroying Syria’s chemical weapons, and sent naval vessels to escort the convoy of shipment. As we speak, a Chinese naval ship remains on duty. What is more, China stays in close contact and communication with the various parties in Syria, so as to hear their views more extensively. This afternoon, in this very room, I met separately with the head of the Syrian government delegation and that of the opposition National Coalition. We urged them to make peace through talks, not just bringing them to the table, but prodding them to continue talking. China will keep up its role to this end.

Al Jazeera: Just now you told us that you met with the heads of the delegations from both sides in the Syrian conflict. It is obvious that the two sides in the Syrian conflict don’t have much in common on the future of Bashar al-Assad and his inner circle. How would you assess the success possibilities of the peace talks? Is there any alternative plan if the talks fail?

Wang Yi: Since it is the talks for peace, it is important for the two sides to bring all their concerns to the negotiating table. The final outcome of the talks depends on how the two sides would negotiate. The international community, the United Nations in particular, should create and maintain an appropriate environment and conditions necessary for their negotiations. The United Nations may offer them constructive proposals and ideas, when necessary, only for their reference. We are not in favor of imposing solutions on them from the outside. It is not advisable especially when the conditions are not ripe, for it would only further complicate the issue.

The question you have just raised is a crucial issue, one that has drawn the attention of all parties. I believe that to find a political solution to the Syrian issue entails a process. We Chinese people often say that one has to eat one mouthful of food after another in order to finish all the food on the plate. Likewise, the negotiation process has to move forward one step after another. What is important is that a general framework on the direction and principles to be observed by all parties should be agreed upon at the initial stage of the peace talks. The peace talks should proceed from easy issues before moving on to the more difficult ones, and finally to the most difficult ones in a step-by-step way. I believe that as long as the process remains ongoing with deepened dialogue and increased mutual trust, there are no issues that are irresolvable.

Reuters: You have just mentioned the role of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council in the process and the importance of the humanitarian operations. Have you thought about adopting a resolution by the UN Security Council on the humanitarian aid access? Apart from the moral support, what specific measures would the five permanent members of the Security Council take to promote the peace talks?

Wang Yi: The international community is very much concerned about the humanitarian situation in Syria and its neighbors. We deeply sympathize with the suffering Syrian refugees. On the whole, the international humanitarian aid operations for Syrian refugees have been going on smoothly. I came across the Kuwaiti Foreign Minister this noon. He told me that the just concluded International Humanitarian Pledging Conference on Syria was a great success, with an enormous amount of contributions pledged by the international community. I don't think there is insurmountable difficulty or barrier to the humanitarian aid. The United Nations, including its Security Council and its permanent five in particular, are ready to play their role in promoting a smooth operation of the humanitarian aid. At the same time, you may remember my remarks this morning. We don’t think it appropriate to politicize or magnify the humanitarian issue, which is a tendency we should guard against.

Thank you.

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