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Symposium "The Reconstruction of Syria: Realities and Prospects" held at Peking University

OCT . 22 2017
Peking University, Oct. 12, 2017: The Symposium "The Reconstruction of Syria: Realities and Prospects”, hosted jointly by the Department of Arabic Language and Culture, School of Foreign Languages and PKU Middle East Studies Center, was held at Yingjie Overseas Exchange Center on September 29, 2017. Chinese Special Envoy to Syria Xie Xiaoyan and Syrian Ambassador to China Imad Moustapha made the keynote speeches. Attendees also include Yang Fuchang, Former Vice Minister of Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Wu Sike, Former China's Special Envoy to Middle East, scholars from Peking University, China Institute of International Studies, Foreign Economic and Trade University, Shanghai International Studies University, as well as representatives from related media, embassies and enterprise. Fu Zhiming, Associate Dean of School of Foreign Language and Director of Peking University Research Center for Middle East, and Lin Fengmin, professor in Arabic Department presided at the symposium.

Meeting on spot

In his speech, Xie pointed out that Chinese government keeps an objective stance on Syrian issue and have gained trust from concerned parties.

Imad Moustapha first reviewed the latest development of Syria's domestic situation. He emphasized that due to the involvement of external forces, Syrian issue cannot simply be defined as a civil war. Fortunately in these days fundamental changes have been made in Syria and the country is on its way to stabilization. Syrian government has taken control of major cities and core economic regions and trade routes. Economy is recovering and people’s lives are getting better. Besides, Syrian government has made significant progress on the fight against the Islamic States and Al-Nusra Front. Moustapha also said that Syrian government has attached great importance to reconstruction. China's rich experiences in the construction of infrastructural facilities and the “look east” policy of Syrian government greatly benefit the further cooperation of Syria and China.

In the following discussion, scholars from universities and institutes in Beijing and Shanghai had a thorough exchange of opinions on Syria economic and political issues.

In Wu Sike's speech, he focused on the wrangling of political powers in Syria, which might distract the government’s attention from the reconstruction. The United States and its allies in the region would continue trying to overthrow Bashar al-Assad Government. Confronted with those problems, Syrian government should seek a balance between different forces and stabilize the domestic situation.

Li Guofu, researcher at China Institute of International Studies held the opinion that political solutions to the Syrian issue is replacing military ones. But political means has problems as well, for example, western countries are not willing to see Bashar al-Assad take the presidency while the tangling political forces have not reached a consensus towards the Syrian issue.

Cheng Tong, Dean of School of Asian and African Studies, Shanghai International Studies University, analyzed the influence of Iran on Syrian issue from four aspects: ideology, bilateral relationship, superpowers and humanitarianism. He thought the Syrian issue would remain complicated while support from Iran depends primarily on Iran’s domestic stability.

Wang Suolao, professor of PKU School of International Studies, analyzed Syria's post-war reconstruction situation. He said that Syrian reconstruction is based on maintaining the legitimacy of Syria's current regime. At the same time, its post-war reconstruction must fulfill the following prerequisites: to destroy the Islamic States, to get free from the interference of armed rebels and neighboring countries, and to return to the international community. Syria should focus on viable targets and create good conditions for the next phase of reconstruction.

In addition, Dr. Imad Sabbini, Director of the Syrian Planning and International Co-operation Committee, also participated in the discussion through Skype. Dr. Sabney pointed out that Syrian government is now developing the implementation scheme for reconstruction, including infrastructure, national institutions, and reconciliation of different ethnic groups. Attracting foreign investment is an important issue in the reconstruction. Syria will actively explore the frameworks of cooperation, and strive to attract foreign investment, including China, into the Syrian market based on mutual benefit and win-win principles. The Syrian government will also make greater adjustments to legislation and administration.

Finally, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Yang Fuchang made the concluding remarks. Yang first stressed that the Chinese government in the United Nations Security Council repeatedly veto the resolutions on the Syrian issue because China respects Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and refuses to interfere with Syrian internal affairs. It is consistent with the Charter of the United Nations and protects the interests of developing and weak countries. He pointed out that the proper settlement of the Syrian issue is an important symbol of the stabilization in the Middle East. On the issue of reconstruction, Yang stressed the importance of political and social reconstruction besides the economic one, and said China holds a positive attitude towards Syria's economic reconstruction.

Photo of participants (partial)

Participants reach the consensus that Syria's reconstruction work is complex and multi-faceted in either material or social aspects. It requires a great amount of investment and calls for a concerted effort of the international community. With the Syrian political process and reconstruction work moving on, Sino-Syrian relations will also step into a new phase.

Written by: Feng Shasha
Edited by: Yan Shengnan & Angélica García
PKU News (in Chinese)