China backs Syria pledge to renounce chemical weapons

AFP , Wednesday 11 Sep 2013

'We hope all relevant sides can solve the Syria problem through diplomatic and political means,' Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman says

China on Wednesday welcomed Syria's promise to renounce chemical weapons and give up its nerve gas arsenal, as fears of a US-led strike against Bashar Al-Assad's regime receded.

US President Barack Obama postponed his threat to carry out punitive missile strikes against Syria after the regime said Tuesday it would sign the UN treaty banning chemical arms.

"We welcome the recent statements by the Syrian government," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular press briefing in Beijing.

"We hope all relevant sides can grasp this opportunity to solve the Syria problem through diplomatic and political means," he added.

Damascus has seized on a plan by its ally Moscow for its chemical weapons to be taken under international control, dissipating the momentum for US-led strikes.

Washington accuses Assad's forces of using chemical weapons to kill 1,429 people last month, and had been looking to build international support for punitive action.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called on Damascus to "place the chemical weapons under international control and then have them destroyed" -- a move which was welcomed by Beijing on Tuesday.

China is a veto-wielding permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, and over the course of the Syrian conflict it has joined with Russia, a fellow veto-holder, to block resolutions supported by Washington and its allies.

Beijing has regularly called for a "political solution" to the crisis in Syria.

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