February 12, 2016 / 4:32 PM / 2 years ago

China rules out joining anti-terrorism coalitions, says helping Iraq

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi answers reporter's questions during a Reuters interview in Munich, Germany, February 12, 2016.Michael Dalder

MUNICH (Reuters) - China won't take part in any coalition fighting "terrorist groups" in the Middle East, but will do its fair share in its own way and is already helping Iraq, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Friday.

China wants to develop deeper defense and anti-terrorism ties with the Arab world, including joint exercises, intelligence sharing and training, the government said in a policy document released last month.

While relying on the region for oil supplies, China has tended to leave Middle Eastern diplomacy to the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council - the United States, Britain, France and Russia.

After a meeting of major powers in Munich aimed at breaking the deadlock on Syria, Wang Yi told Reuters in an interview that Beijing would not take part in international coalitions fighting against militants in the region.

"There is a tradition in China's foreign policy. We do not join in state groups that have a military nature and this also applies to international counter-terrorism cooperation," he said speaking through an interpreter.

"It doesn't mean that China will not play its role in fighting terrorism. It has been, but in its own ways."

In December, China passed a counter-terrorism law which allows its military to venture overseas on counter-terrorism operations, though experts have said China faces big practical and diplomatic problems if it ever wants to do this.

Beijing has been trying to get more diplomatically involved, especially in Syria, recently hosting both its foreign minister and opposition officials.

It also has its own worries about radicalization of the Muslim Uighur people who live in China's far western region of Xinjiang, which has been beset by violence in recent years, blamed by Beijing on Islamist militants.

"We have been helping Iraq with counter-terrorism capacity building and conducting intelligence sharing with certain countries," he said without elaborating.

"We are (also) working with countries to cut the channels of financial resources and movements of terrorists," he said.

China says some Uighurs have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight with militant groups there.

In November, Islamic State said it had killed a Chinese citizen it had taken hostage in the Middle East.

Wang said he hoped that Friday's agreement between major powers for a "cessation of hostilities" in Syria would succeed because all the major players had now accepted that the crisis needed end.

"I have an impression that although different parties still have different positions and although there were serious debates, all the parties ... have come to realize that we must stop blaming each other," he said.

Reporting By John Irish; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Toby Chopra

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