China urges restraint over Syria tensions, calls for calm

An excavator is used to search for survivors under the rubble of collapsed buildings as Free Syrian Army fighters and civilians gather at the site after what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo's Fardous neighbourhood August 26, 2013. REUTERS/Molhem Barakat

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s foreign minister urged restraint on Thursday in the growing tensions over Syria, saying any military intervention in the crisis would only worsen turmoil in the Middle East.

President Barack Obama vowed on Wednesday that the Syrian government would face “international consequences” for last week’s deadly chemical attack, but made clear any military response would be limited to avoid dragging the United States into another war in the Middle East.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said military action would not help, but also repeated that China opposed anyone using chemical weapons.

“A political resolution has, from the very beginning, been the only way out for the Syrian issue,” Wang said in a statement on the ministry’s website.

There should be no rush to prejudge the findings of a U.N. team currently in Syria to investigate the claims chemical weapons were used. “China calls on all sides to exercise restraint and remain calm,” Wang said.

In New York, Britain pushed the other four veto-holding members of the U.N. Security Council to authorize military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to protect Syrian civilians – a move certain to be blocked by Russia and, probably, China. The meeting ended without a decision.

The United States and its allies say a U.N. veto would not stop them. Western diplomats called the proposed resolution a maneuver to isolate Moscow and rally a coalition behind air strikes.

Moscow and Beijing have both vetoed previous Western efforts to impose U.N. penalties on Assad, although China has been keen to show it is not taking sides and has urged the Syrian government to talk to the opposition.

It has also said a transitional government should be formed.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Hui Li; Editing by Paul Tait)