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After Astana-6 China Ready to Join the Syrian Peace Process, Lead the Reconstruction Efforts

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GM | Staff Writer  

After two days of negotiations, Astana talks wrapped up on Friday, resulting in long-awaited agreement on establishing the fourth and the final de-escalation zone in Idlib governorate bordering Turkey.

As the talks were concluding, China finally upped the ante on Syria by expressing its readiness to join the next round of Astana talks, scheduled for October.

“The goal of the talks in Astana is to end the bloodshed in Syria. It is an important framework along with the consultations in Geneva. China still believes that the Syrian issue should be solved only through political methods – this is the only realistic solution to the situation in the country”, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at Friday’s regular briefing, commenting on the latest round of Astana peace talks on Syria.

“We hope that another round of talks in Astana will generate positive results. China supports any political methods that can lead to a way out of the crisis in Syria. For our part, we are ready to contribute actively to that process,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman stressed.

Besides China, earlier during the talks, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon, were also mentioned as possible observer countries to join the next round of Astana negotiations.

Although China’s role in Syria from the outset of the crisis was markedly different from that of Iran and Russia, where China was mostly supporting Russian stance at the UN Security Council, vetoing the Western calls for military intervention ― Chinese interests in Syria are clear and obvious. China’s ambitious Belt and Road multibillion, intercontinental development project, among other regional countries, includes Syria as an important transit partner.

China’s prominent role in Syrian reconstruction process was made clear on August 17, when Damascus International Exhibition – the first since the start of the Syrian conflict opened as a triumphant symbol of the beginning of the end of nearly seven years’ long war. The fair’s general director Fares al-Kartally, during the opening told AFP that the fair was a “signal (of) the start of (the country’s) reconstruction.”

Earlier in August China on its part hosted a “First Trade Fair on Syrian Reconstruction Projects” during which a Chinese-Arab group announced government’s commitment of $2 billion towards the reconstruction of Syria’s industrial parks.

Joint Syria-China aim was to signal to the Assad-hostile countries that the priority in the reconstruction process of the war-torn country would be given to the friendly nations.

Syrian closest neighbor Jordan, late last July, has hosted a conference in Amman, dubbed “Syria Rebuild 2017” under the auspices of Jordan Construction Contractors Association and the Ministry of Public Works. As Syria and Jordan are seeking to reestablish ties, there is a great chance that Jordan will gain a role in the reconstruction projects, along with some other neighboring countries.

While Syrian neighbors in the region are competing for a role in the reconstruction process, Western countries including US, UK and other have announced on Monday that they will not be participating in the country’s reconstruction process as long as the government is headed by Bashar al-Assad. Western unwillingness to accept Syrian government as a partner, despite its victories against ISIS and assorted terrorist groupings, will ultimately have negative economic repercussions for the Western countries, and leave China, Russia, Iran, and other regional actors as the key economic players, with power to further shift regional balance of power towards the emerging Eurasian bloc.

With Turkish siding with Russia and Iran through its collaboration on the establishment of the fourth de-escalation zone in northern Syrian Idlib province, there are chances that Turkey will also get a chance to contribute in the reconstruction, given its prominent feature in the Chinese ‘Road and Belt’ project. Despite its negative role in the Syrian conflict Qatar too ― via Russian, Iranian and Chinese mediating ― would likely get a chance to participate in the Syrian reconstruction business.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) shakes hands with Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem during a joint news conference after a meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, China, December 24, 2015. REUTERS/Jason Lee – RTX1ZYBF