'NATO has no intention to intervene militarily in Syria'
Brussels: NATO has no intention to intervene militarily in Syria and it wants to see a "peaceful and political" settlement in the turmoil-battered mideast nation, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told Xinhua in an exclusive interview recently.
Rasmussen said that unlike in Libya where there was a clear United Nations mandate, no international or regional requests have been made so far for NATO to step in Syria, and even the armed opposition groups in the country have refrained from calling for an international military intervention.
"I think the best way forward is the Annan plan to find peaceful and political solutions," said Rasmussen, the former Danish prime minister from 2001 to 2009.
His remarks came as UN-Arab League joint envoy Kofi Annan convenes a major conference in Geneva on Saturday to discuss solutions to the unrelenting domestic violence in Syria.
The meeting on Syria will be attended by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, as well as Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar and Turkey.
Rasmussen hoped China would play an important role in bringing an end to the Syria conflict which began in early 2011, and called on China to exert influence in Damascus to put pressure on the regime to stop the violence.
Commenting on NATO-China ties, Rasmussen said he appreciated that concrete steps have been taken in the direction of strengthening the dialogue between China and NATO. He cited as examples military to military cooperation and increased high-level political contacts between the two sides.
Noting that NATO has already set up a special relationship with four of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Rasmussen said it is "quite natural" for NATO to "seek a more structural dialogue with China." "I hope to see that further developed in the coming years," he added.
Despite the U.S. military''s enhanced Asia-Pacific focus, NATO has no plans to establish a permanent military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, Rasmussen said.
Nonetheless, he said, NATO has plans to engage with partners in the region such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea.
"I do believe that the increased economic and political importance of the Asia-Pacific region also makes it necessary to engage more with the aim to ensure peace and stability in that region as well," he said.
Rasmussen also stressed that "the US pivot toward the Asia Pacific region will not take place at the expense of the transatlantic relationship."