China reaches out to Germany on Libya

China, Germany have often traded barbs on human rights, trade and security.

Last Updated: Mar 25, 2011, 15:15 PM IST

Beijing: China has reached out to Germany over the two nations` shared opposition to escalating fighting in Libya ahead of a visit by the German foreign minister.

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi laid out China`s "principled stance" about the UN-authorised military campaign against the embattled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi during a telephone call on Thursday with the German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, said the Chinese Foreign Ministry website (www.mfa.gov.cn).

Westerwelle will visit China next week for talks that appear sure to cover the crisis in Libya. Although Beijing and Berlin have often traded barbs on human rights, trade and security, they have found some common ground in shared misgivings about the Western air campaign against Gaddafi.

China abstained from the UN Security Council vote that authorised the Libya intervention, and Germany too broke ranks with Western allies to join four other countries that also abstained, among them Russia.

Yang`s comments echoed Beijing`s repeated criticisms of the U.N.-backed Libya action, which as a veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council it could have stymied.

"We hope that the situation in Libya returns to peace and stability as quickly as possible, avoiding an escalation in armed conflict and an even more serious humanitarian crisis," Yang told Westerwelle, according to the Chinese account.

Beijing`s main fear appears to be that Libya could eventually be carved up into divided states, anathema to China`s traditional views about the primacy of sovereignty in handling security crises.

Yang stressed that "the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Libya," said the account.

The Chinese report did not mention what Westerwelle said.

On Sunday, he dismissed claims that Berlin was isolated after refusing to join its NATO allies in staging military strikes on Libya.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel`s decision to opt out of any military action in Libya has drawn criticism at home, putting the government on the defensive over a policy that opinion polls suggest should be popular with voters.

Bureau Report