BEIJING (AP) — China on Sunday welcomed a Russia-U.S. agreement on securing and destroying Syria's chemical weapons, saying it was a peaceful solution to the stockpile issue that could ease the tense situation in the war-torn country.
In a diplomatic breakthrough that averts the threat of U.S. military action against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime for now, American and Russian diplomats in Geneva agreed Saturday on a deal to secure and destroy Syria's chemical weapons.
"We believe the framework agreement will ease the current tense situation that may be triggered at any moment in Syria and creates new prospects for resolving the chemical weapon issue in Syria through peaceful means," said Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
He spoke at the beginning of a meeting with his French counterpart, Laurent Fabius, who was visiting Beijing in a continuing diplomatic drive to end the 2 1/2-year civil war.
Fabius said later that questions over the deal remained, including what measures should be taken if the Syrian government fails to adhere to it.
France firmly backs the Syrian rebels and has strategic and historic interests in the region. It urged military action after a chemical attack on Aug. 21 that Paris and Washington blame on Assad's government.
In contrast, China and Russia have consistently blocked resolutions at the U.N. Security Council aimed at sanctioning Assad's regime.
After Sunday's meeting, the French foreign minister said the deal on destroying Syria's chemical weapons was "a significant step forward, but it's a first stage."
"On one hand, we are going to move forward with the destruction of chemical weapons — bravo — but on the other hand, hundreds of deaths every day are mounting in Syria and that's also what we must tackle, that is to say find a political solution to the Syrian crisis," Fabius said.
He said he would discuss the agreement and its implementation at a meeting Monday in Paris with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and British Foreign Secretary William Hague. On Tuesday, he will meet with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, in Moscow.
Fabius also said a report by U.N. inspectors on last month's chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus would be published Monday.