China joins Russia in opposing military strikes on Syria

The Guardian reports: The Chinese intervention came as G20 leaders gathered in St Petersburg on Thursday for a summit likely to be dominated by Syria. The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, is now expected to allow the issue on the agenda for dinner, reflecting the reality that the fate of the world economy is inextricably intertwined with the risk of a Middle East conflagration.

The Chinese deputy finance minister, Zhu Guangyao, told a pre-G20 briefing: “Military action would have a negative impact on the global economy, especially on oil prices – it will cause a hike in the oil price.”

The UN special envoy on Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, is also rushing to the summit to update G20 leaders on the state of stalled peace talks.

It also emerged that the pope has written to Putin, reportedly saying military action would be a futile pursuit.

In a sign of tensions ahead of the summit, Putin called the US secretary of state a liar for claiming al-Qaida did not have a significant presence in Syria. He also warned that US bombing of Syria could lead to highly dangerous attacks on Syrian nuclear reactors.

EU leaders have expressed their concern at the pace of the drive to war. The president of the European commission, José Manuel Barroso, said consensus in the international community was needed on Syria and argued efforts should be focused on a political solution.

Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European council, said: “No military solution to the Syrian conflict.”

Italy’s prime minister, Enrico Letta, also claimed the summit was the “last opportunity” for negotiated and political solutions to Syria’s civil war.

Letta urged Putin to “avoid” a final break with Washington over Syria, adding that concern over Syria had hit “maximum” levels.

In contrast, the French foreign minister said: “The position of France is to punish and negotiate.”

“We are convinced that if there is no punishment for Mr Assad, there will be no negotiation,” Laurent Fabius told France 2 television before travelling to the summit. “Punishment will allow negotiation, but obviously it will be difficult.” [Continue reading…]

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