China, a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, today welcomed a US-Russia deal to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons, saying it will help ease tensions in the Middle East. "The Chinese side welcomes the framework agreement between the US and Russia. This agreement will enable tensions in Syria to be eased," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said after meeting his visiting French counterpart Laurent Fabius.
Fabius, who arrived in Beijing today, has called the agreement "a significant step forward" and said "important decisions need to be taken on Syria". It was China's first official reaction to the deal reached in Geneva after three days of intensive talks between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
China's backing of the US-Russia deal could bring the five permanent members of UNSC on board to implement the pact and eliminate Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles by mid-2014. Kerry has outlined a six-point framework under which Syria must hand over a full list of its stockpile within a week and allow "immediate, unfettered access" to its chemical sites.
Fabius, who is to head back to Paris today, said: "Only a few days ago, Syria was denying having chemical weapons and having used them. From now on we are in a new phase," he said. He told reporters that while the plan was an important advance, it was "only a first stage". The deal would form the basis of a United Nations resolution to be agreed within a week, he added.
On the UN Inspectors report on the use of chemical weapons in Syria he said "no-one will understand if there were no consequences following a damning report. It will be necessary to react and take action".