BEIJING (Reuters) â€” China hit back at critics of its policy on Sudan on Thursday, saying forcing UN troops on Khartoum would complicate efforts to resolve the Darfur crisis and calling attempts to link its policies there with the Olympics “ridiculous”.
Liu Guijin, China’s representative on African affairs, said pushing Sudan to accept a proposed hybrid force of UN and African Union peacekeepers would hinder efforts within Sudan to forge a resolution to the conflict in Darfur.
“If you are to address the issues of a sovereign state, then the solution will not work without the support of and collaboration from that government,” Liu told Reuters in his first interview with foreign media since his appointment.
Should Sudan delay approval of the force, the United States and Britain want to push for sanctions, something China â€” a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council â€” has opposed.
“The Sudanese government has indicated that it is ready to have discussions with the rebel leaders for the purpose of bringing them to join the DPA (Darfur Peace Agreement).” “In this circumstance, to announce more sanctions will further complicate the situation,” Liu said.
China is a major investor in Sudan’s oil industry and sells weapons to its government, prompting calls for it to use its leverage to pressure Khartoum over Darfur, where the UN estimates some 220,000 have died and 2 million been displaced in fighting between government-linked militias and rebel groups.
China’s role has also made it a target of critics who say it is abetting the bloodshed in Darfur and who have called for a boycott of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games over the issue. Liu said the two were unrelated.
“The 2008 Olympic Games is a sports event,” he said. “To link a sports event with the position of the Chinese government on the Darfur issue is ridiculous.”
Liu, who spent 16 years as a diplomat on the continent in postings from Ethiopia to South Africa, also rejected the notion that engaging with Sudan was harmful and said the opposite was true.
“It has contributed to local economic and social development and also created enabling conditions for the resolution of the conflict in the Darfur region,” he said.
“We believe that one of the reasons for the Darfur conflict is lack of development and poverty.” China, whose state-owned CNPC oil group entered Sudan in the mid-1990s, produces roughly 226,000 barrels of oil per day from the country, or about 3 perÂ cent of China’s demand.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has been among the defenders of China’s role in Sudan, calling Beijing’s engagement “helpful” and that the government has been “exerting its utmost efforts” on Darfur. Liu would not be drawn on whether China had a timeframe in mind for seeking Sudan’s acceptance of UN peacekeepers before resorting to tougher action, and said it was too early to talk about whether it would veto a resolution on sanctions if it came to that.
“We have to try our best for a political solution,” he said.