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China, US Discuss Differences over Syria

U.S. Secretary of State Clinton speaks with Chinese President Hu Jintao during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Sept. 5, 2012.

U.S. Secretary of State Clinton speaks with Chinese President Hu Jintao during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Sept. 5, 2012.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Wednesday with Chinese officials to discuss differences about how best to end the conflict in Syria. China and Russia have repeatedly blocked efforts to impose United Nations sanctions against Syria's embattled President Bashar al-Assad.

Secretary Clinton says the United States and China both want to see an end to the violence and the start of a political transition in Syria. The problem is how to get there.

"It is no secret that we have been disappointed by Russia's and China's actions blocking tougher U.N. Security Council resolutions. And we hope to continue to unite behind a real path forward to end the violence in Syria," she said.

She discussed the Syrian conflict with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Foreign Minister Yang Jeichi. Yang says Beijing believes that any solution to the conflict must come from the Syrian people, themselves.

The foreign minister says political transition in Syria cannot be imposed from the outside. He says all member states should uphold the purposes and principles of the United Nations charter, especially non-interference in other countries' internal affairs. He says China is not partial to any Syrian individual or any party.

That is in contrast to Chinese ally Russia, which is supplying arms to President Assad and to the United States, which is backing President Assad's opponents.

Clinton says the best course of action remains convincing China and Russia to join other Security Council members behind what she calls "real consequences" for President Assad if he continues to attack his own people. Until then, she says the United States and other members of the so-called "Friends of Syria" will help his opponents.

"The United States will continue to work with a growing group of like-minded nations to support the Syrian opposition and plan for the day after Assad goes because we are convinced that he will," she said.

Foreign Minister Yang says backing one side over the other in Syria risks igniting greater regional conflict.

He says history will judge that China's position on the Syrian conflict promotes "the appropriate handling and resolution" of the issue because what Beijing has in mind are the interests of the Syrian people and the peace and stability of the region.

Secretary Clinton says that peace and stability is threatened by those who allow the violence to drag on.

"The longer the conflict goes on, the greater the risk that it spills over borders and destabilizes neighboring countries," she said. "We have already seen dangerous clashes in Lebanon and growing tensions in Turkey and Jordan."

During their talks in Beijing, Clinton and Yang also discussed joint efforts to limit the nuclear activities of North Korea and Iran as well as to resolve differences between Sudan and South Sudan.

"On some of these issues, China and the United States have much to agree on and we are engaged in very cooperative behavior to try to reach our common goals. On others, such as human rights, we do not always see eye-to-eye, but we continue to talk together," she said.

She says China and the United States will never agree on all matters. No countries do. But she says Beijing and Washington are learning to manage their differences and deal openly with misunderstandings when they do occur.

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