BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Friday urged all parties in Syria to try to find a political settlement in the six-year-old war after a U.S. military strike on a Syrian airfield, which came as China’s president met with U.S. President Donald Trump.
China also hoped that “relevant parties stay calm, exercise restraint and avoid doing anything that might raise tensions”, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.
“The latest developments in Syria again speak to the urgent need for a political settlement to resolve the Syria issue,” Hua Chunying told reporters at a regular briefing.
“We call on all relevant parties to resolutely stick to promoting a political settlement and not abandon efforts to find a political settlement.”
U.S. officials said the military launched dozens of cruise missile strikes against an airbase controlled by Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s forces in response to the chemical attack on Tuesday in a rebel-held area.
Facing his biggest foreign policy crisis since taking office in January, Trump took the toughest direct U.S. action yet in Syria’s civil war, raising the risk of confrontation with Russia and Iran, Assad’s two main military backers.
China has routinely sided with Russia in blocking action by the U.N. Security Council on Syria, and Beijing’s special envoy for the Syrian crisis has praised Russia’s military role there as effective in combating international terrorism.
While relying on the region for oil supplies, China tends to leave Middle Eastern diplomacy to the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, namely the United States, Britain, France and Russia.
But China has urged that a diplomatic resolution to the violence there be found and has hosted Syrian government and opposition figures.
While showing no interest in getting involved militarily, China’s Defence Ministry said last year that it had been providing medical equipment and training for Syria.
Beijing has its own security concerns about violence in the region, worried that Uighurs, a mostly Muslim people from western China’s Xinjiang region, have been fighting with militant groups in Syria and Iraq.
A group purporting to be affiliated with the Islamic State issued a bloody video in late February, showing ethnic Uighur fighters training in Iraq, killing prisoners, and vowing to plant their flag in China.
Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Writing by Michael Martina; Editing by Nick Macfie