China's Premier Li Keqiang urges free trade talks with Germany during meet with Angela Merkel

China's Premier Li Keqiang and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (right) inspect honour guards during a welcoming ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
China's Premier Li Keqiang and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (right) inspect honour guards during a welcoming ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (Reuters) - China and Europe should establish a feasibility study on free trade talks as soon as possible, China's Premier Li Keqiang said on Thursday (Oct 29) during a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Beijing.

Mr Li also pointed out that China would be a huge market for Germany while the country can learn from Germany's industry.

Mr Li and Dr Merkel also agreed that there must be a political solution to the crisis in Syria, repeating a stance China has adopted throughout, adding that China was seriously concerned about the refugee crisis in Germany and Europe but believed Europe had the ability to meet the challenge.

China has repeatedly expressed opposition to the use of force to resolve the crisis in Syria, saying that a political solution was the only way out.

Russia last month began air strikes on targets in Syria in a dramatic escalation of foreign involvement in the civil war. This has been criticised by the West as an attempt to prop up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, rather than its purported aim of attacking Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Mr Li said the urgency of resolving the Syria situation issue was rising. "The most important thing is to seize the opportunity to implement a political resolution and set up an equal, inclusive and open political dialogue," he told reporters.

He said many global leaders had made suggestions about how to tackle the crisis. "We hope that we can put together these suggestions, and particularly through the United Nations, this organisation, advance the resolution of the Syria issue," Mr Li said, adding China would continue to play a "constructive role".

"We need a diplomatic political solution," Dr Merkel said. "It is urgent to find one. At least there are signs for a format of talks that will bring the necessary participants together."

The United States and its allies have also been carrying out air strikes in Syria against Islamic State, and have supported opposition groups fighting Mr Assad.

While China generally votes with fellow permanent United Nations Security Council member Russia on the Syria issue, it has expressed concern about interference in Syria's internal affairs and repeatedly called for a political solution.

China, a low-key diplomatic player in the Middle East despite its dependence on the region for its oil, has warned many times military action cannot end the crisis.

Dr Merkel is under intense pressure for her handling of a wave of refugees in Germany, mainly from Syria and Afghanistan.

Berlin expects between 800,000 and a million migrants to arrive in Germany this year, twice as many as in any year before.

Mr Li said China was extremely concerned about the refugee crisis but that China expresses its "high degree of approval" to the relevant countries for their effort to appropriately settle the refugees and avoid a humanitarian crisis.