x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Gulf states urge China to 'reconsider its position'

GCC leaders have urged China to reconsider its position on Syria.

ABU DHABI // The Arabian Gulf states yesterday again urged China to reconsider its stance on Syria.

At the first Sino-Gulf strategic dialogue forum last year both parties agreed to consult before any action was taken on the issue.

But Beijing has three times vetoed United Nations Security Council resolutions on Syria.

"We strongly hope the People's Republic will reconsider its position on Syria and come in line with historical Chinese positions towards Arab issues," Dr Abdel Latif Al Zayani, secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council, said yesterday.

Dr Abdul Aziz Al Uwaisheq, assistant secretary general for negotiations and strategic dialogue at the GCC, said the council had been surprised by China's use of its Security Council veto.

"We had an implicit agreement that the strategic dialogue would include discussion about the Syrian cause and we had tackled the subject and agreed to consult. However, after the Security Council position taken, we have not met for further dialogue because we could not continue without resolving that issue," he said.

The Chinese government attempted to explain its position in a letter to the GCC, Dr Al Uwaisheq said. "We received a letter from the Chinese government but did not feel that the reasons given conformed with what we have agreed to before."

During the UN General Assembly in New York this year, a meeting took place with China's foreign minister Yang Jiechi, but this also brought little progress on the issue. As a result, a strategic dialogue forum scheduled for November 7 in Beijing was delayed by the GCC.

"As you know, it is difficult for the GCC countries to continue the strategic dialogue unless we solve this problem," said Dr Al Uwaisheq. "The GCC countries will not be able to have any stake in issues relating to China unless they deal with the Syrian cause."

Responding yesterday, the chairman of the Environmental Protection and Resources Conservation Committee of the National People's Congress, Mao Rubai, said China does not interfere in the internal policies of other nations.

"China-GCC relations are improving and we pay great attention to them, as we have increased visits between the two blocs, but China respects the internal policies of other nations, and respects and supports the work by the UN, the Arab League and the African Union to solve the regional and international problems," he said.

His position echoed a statement last month by Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, who said: "China believes that political dialogue is the only right way to resolve the Syrian crisis and the political transition process led by the Syrian people should be launched and promoted at an early date."

The Syrian issue was raised at the China-GCC Sustainable Development Forum in the capital yesterday. Since a free-trade agreement was signed between China and the GCC in 2002, trade between the two has increased 13 fold.

Dr Al Zayani said trade this year reached US$131 billion and continued cooperation would create "a formidable relationship between the two rising forces of the 21st century".

The financial crisis, climate change, food security, energy security issues and the new regional conflicts pose challenges were also on the table at the one-day forum.

Wang Zhizhen, vice chairwoman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, told the forum: "We have to have place our efforts in the highest levels to strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation and friendly relations among nations to build a secure and harmonious world."

amustafa@thenational.ae