China believes Syria needs a peaceful solution

Rather a lot of megaphone diplomacy followed the recent UN vote on Syria. Confusion and anger flowed from British and western media. So why did Russia and China veto the UN security council draft resolution on Syria? As Chinese ambassador in the UK, I feel it is timely to give a more measured explanation of why China voted no. Also, I want to explain how together we can, must and should give peace a chance in Syria.

Since day one of this crisis, China has been watching the situation very closely. We have consistently urged all sides to stop violence, avoid civilian casualties and restore order in the country. Central to any lasting solution must be a clear principle: the Syrian people's call for change should be heard, and their interests need to be protected. This is the best possible result for the Syrian people.

For this to happen, China has backed the Arab League's efforts to find a political solution and maintain stability in the region. In addition, we encouraged all sides in Syria to respond positively to these efforts to mediate. The goal must be an immediate end to all violence; once that is achieved, we must encourage an inclusive political process led by the Syrian people. Peaceful dialogue is the best way to tackle differences and grievances and restore stability to Syria.

The international community should act in a way that constructively helps this goal, not the opposite. It is fundamental that Syria's sovereignty, independence and territory must be respected. The security council should adopt a calm and measured response to the crisis; above all it must stand by the purposes and principles of the UN charter.

Any decision the council makes must reduce rather than inflame tension, encourage reconciliation and contribute to regional peace and stability in the Middle East. Entrusted with a responsibility for world peace and security, the last thing the UN should do is to further complicate the crisis. What we need from the UN security council is a sustainable solution, not a rash decision. It was following the above principles that led China to vote no.

China has been an active negotiator at the security council to try to produce a draft resolution on Syria. We continue to work hard to win a consensus. But imposing hasty deadlines on these debates will most likely lead to failure; this was particularly so at a time of sharp divide on the text and some members' insistence on further consultations. Furthermore, the Russian foreign minister had announced a visit to Damascus to begin a new round of mediation. This means it was, and is, not a good time for forcing a vote on Syria. The end result was anticipated by those members who pressed for the vote; the solidarity and authority of the security council is undermined as a result, and we are further away from a sustainable and lasting solution.

Chinese people abhor the violence and bloodshed in Syria as much as those in Britain and other countries. China voted against the resolution for a simple reason: the resolution as drafted will not help cool down the situation. It does not facilitate political dialogue. It does not address distrust, or bring peace and stability to the region. Quite the contrary, China believes that forcing the vote only aggravates these tension and makes the situation more unmanageable.

So what about the track record of no votes in the UN security council? In the 41 years since the People's Republic's return to the council, China has only cast a no vote eight times. This is a frequency far lower than any of the other four permanent members. China always strives for consensus and harmony; this attitude is embedded in our culture. So the low pattern of no votes by China shows my government thinks very hard before voting. It means that China's veto on Syria this time around was a very tough decision.

China in this process has shown a consistent and clear commitment to work with the international community to seek a responsible and lasting solution to the Syrian issue. But the vote itself is a powerful reminder of the international responsibility to choose a constructive path forward.

By Liu Xiaoming, Chinese ambassador to Britain.

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