17:24 GMT02 July 2020
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    On Monday, Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Li Baodong said that the positions of Beijing and Moscow coincide on the Syrian issue. Speaking to Sputnik, Chinese and Russian analysts confirmed that recent events have demonstrated that the two countries are quickly building a sustainable strategic partnership in their response to the Syrian crisis.

    Speaking at a briefing in Beijing, Li said that "China and Russia hold the same position on the most important international and regional issues," including the conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan. 

    "The two countries, being permanent members of the UN Security Council, continue to cooperate closely on international and regional issues," Li added, noting that President Xi Jinping looks forward to meeting with President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the upcoming BRICS summit in Goa later this week to discuss the most pressing issues of regional and international politics.

    Li's words on Russian-Chinese cooperation in Syria were confirmed in practice on Saturday, when China voted in favor of a Russian draft resolution aimed at resolving the Syrian crisis at the UN Security Council. China justified its vote by explaining that the Russian proposal would be the surest way to ensure a cessation of hostilities, humanitarian access, and a more effective joint fight against terror. Chinese UN envoy Liu Jieyi expressed regret that the Russian proposal was not adopted after being blocked by the US and its allies.

    China earlier abstained from a French resolution, which Russia ultimately vetoed, on creating a no fly zone over the city of Aleppo, suggesting that the draft did not "reflect the full respect for the sovereignty, independence, unification and territorial integrity of Syria."

    Asked to comment on Saturday's diplomatic drama at the UN, Peking University director of the Institute of International Relations Jia Lieying told Sputnik that in fact, Russia and China have always held a consistent position on Syria at the diplomatic level.

    "China and Russia always took similar positions in prior UN Security Council votes on the Syrian  issue," Jia stressed. "What we are seeing now is just a continuation of this trend of asserting a unified position."

    That unity, the analyst noted, stems from the fact that Moscow and Beijing are "unanimous in their opposition to the violent overthrow of political power in any country," with the two countries "working together to ensure that internal problems are resolved" without foreign interference, including "under the pretext of 'human rights.'"

    For their part, Russian analysts believe that China has actually been consciously strengthening its role on the Syrian issue in recent years. Political scientist and Asia specialist Stanislav Tarasov suggested that a 'synergy of efforts and interests' is forming between the two powers in the region.

    "There is no question that there is correlation, coherence and coordination between Russia and China on the Syrian issue," the analyst emphasized. "The two countries' representatives have demonstrated this synergy at the UN Security Council, not to mention other venues."

    Effectively, Tarasov added, "the scenarios for settling the Syrian crisis proposed by Russia are backed up by China. Specifically, we're talking about the declaration of the need to preserve the country's territorial integrity." 

    This cooperation also has a broader potential, and can be applied to other countries in the region as well, the analyst explained, "including Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Afghanistan. China takes a multidimensional approach to these issues. For Beijing, as for Moscow, Syria is one of the most important and significant elements of the Middle Eastern mosaic. This is especially true considering the fact that the Daesh terrorists [in Syria] are now attempting to infiltrate Afghanistan, which China considers a zone of its interests."

    In another sense, for both Russia and China, the Syrian issue has become an area where the two emerging powers have been able to act more confidently in announcing their new role in the world. "China has begun to become significantly involved in events in the Middle East. In this sense, the Russian-Chinese partnership carries a strategic, pragmatic character. There's no doubt that it will have a sustainable character," Tarasov said.

    Finally, CIS Institute deputy director Vladimir Yevseyev told Sputnik that he is absolutely certain presidents Xi and Putin will discuss the two countries' next steps on Syria in greater detail at the BRICS Summit in Goa on October 15-16. The preconditions for this discussion have definitely presented themselves.

    Beijing, he stressed, has a broad collection of interests in Syria. "First of all, this includes rebuilding the country's oil production capability, which prior to the war was controlled to a large extent by China. Secondly, this includes receiving valuable combat experience. Syria, factually, is the only place where China can receive combat experience, both for its air and land forces – primarily its special forces. This experience would be invaluable. I think that Chinese pilots may come to work out of the Russian base at Hmeymim. Most likely, the Chinese would also like the opportunity to visit the Tartus port on occasion."

    Port of Tartus, Syria
    © Wikipedia / Taras Kalapun
    Port of Tartus, Syria

    This in turn suggests the possibility of China becoming involved in expanding the (presently limited) capabilities of the Russian base at Tartus, Yevseyev noted. "With Chinese help, particularly through an effort to deepen the seabed around the port and modernize it, would allow us to create a full-fledged base. China would likely want to use it to have a presence in the Mediterranean, something Beijing considers to be of major importance."

    Ultimately, the analyst noted that "China is actively positioning itself as a global center of power. From this perspective, it's important for the country not just to discuss the settlement of the crisis in Syria at the political level, but to participate directly in overcoming the crisis, including via the component of military force – that is, for Beijing to position itself as a state that is a party to settling the Syrian crisis."


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