China will continue to firmly support the Central Asian countries in protecting their independence and territorial integrity, the country's foreign ministry said after a senior Chinese representative in France questioned the sovereignty of these countries, Reuters reports.
"China will, as always, firmly support Central Asian countries in safeguarding (their) national sovereignty, independence, security and territorial integrity," the ministry quoted Foreign Minister Qin Gang as saying on Wednesday, 26 April.
Qin spoke at a meeting with his counterparts from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan in the northwest Chinese city of Xi'an.
"China firmly supports the countries of Central Asia in choosing their path of development, taking into account their national conditions,” Qin said, adding that he opposes any outside interference in their internal affairs.
Chinese Ambassador to France Lu Shai caused a diplomatic outcry in Europe when, in an interview on French television on April 21, he questioned the sovereignty of Ukraine, a territory invaded by Russia last year, and five other former Soviet republics.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry distanced itself from Lu's comments, and the Chinese Embassy in Paris issued a statement saying that Lu's comments “were not a political declaration, but an expression of his personal views.”
"Both statements appeared to be an attempt to reduce tensions with the EU, while the US also expressed concern about the growing proximity between Beijing and Moscow," Reuters cites.
Qin on Wednesday also promised to strengthen ties and cooperation with the five Central Asian republics through the United Nations and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the ministry said.