Changing its stance on Masood Azhar, China on Tuesday said that vexed issue of designating Jaish-e-Mohammed chief as a global terrorist by the UN will be "properly resolved" but it did not give any timeline.
China put a technical hold in March on a fresh proposal to impose a ban on the head of Pakistan-based JeM which claimed responsibility for the deadly Pulwama terror attack. It was for the fourth time, China blocked Azhar's listing as a global terrorist by the UN.
China, which is one of the five veto-wielding members of the Security Council, blocked India's efforts in the past to list Azhar as a global terrorist, saying there is not enough evidence against him.
"Support issue of listing(of Masood Azhar), which should be resolved through political consultation within framework of 1267 Committee. We think that is also the consensus of the overwhelming majority of the members of the Council," China said in a statement.
"At present, the relevant consultations are under way in the 1267 Committee. Within the framework. And positive progress has been made. Thirdly, we believe in the joint efforts of all parties. This problem can be properly solved," it added.
He was responding to questions on the media reports that China has reportedly consented to lift its technical hold on a fresh proposal moved by France, the UK and the US to list Azhar under the 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council.
The US, the UK and France this time stepped up pressure on Beijing by taking the issue directly to the powerful UN Security Council (UNSC).
Though China can exercise its veto power as a permanent member of the UNSC, Beijing has staunchly opposed the issue to be taken to the apex UN body as it has to publically explain its stand on its reservations to list Azhar, whose group JeM has already been designated as terror outfit by UN, before exercising its veto.
China has accused the US of scuttling progress to resolve the issue by taking it to the UNSC and insisted that it should be resolved at the 1267 Committee whose proceedings are not publicised.
"Regarding the listing issue in the 1267 Committee, we have expressed our position many times and I just want to stress two points," Geng said answering a number of questions on Azhar's issue.
"First, we support the listing issue being settled within the 1267 committee through dialogue and consultation and I believe this is the consensus of most members. Second, the relevant consultations are going on within the committee and has achieved some progress. Third, I believe, with the joint efforts of all parties, this issue can be properly resolved," he said.
On reports that China would lift its technical hold on May 1, he said, "on the listing issue, China is still working with the relevant parties and we are in contact with all relevant parties within the 1267 Committee and I believe with the joint efforts of all parties, this will be properly resolved."
Asked about the recent visit of Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale to Beijing during which he held talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi as well as New Delhi shared the technical evidence of JeM's involvement in the Pulwama terror attack, Geng reiterated that China is still working with the relevant parties.
"I believe with the joint efforts of all parties, this will be properly resolved," he said.
The efforts to resolve Azhar's listing issue gathered momentum last week with the visit of Imran Khan to Beijing to attend China's 2nd Belt and Road Forum (BRF) which was held here from April 25-27.
During the visit, Khan held talks with Xi, besides meeting Premier Li Keqiang and Vice President Wang Qishan during which India-Pakistan tension following the Pulwama terror attack as well as listing of Azhar reportedly figured.
An official statement of China issued after Xi-Khan meeting on Sunday said the Chinese President had expressed hope that Pakistan and India can meet each other halfway and improve their relations.
Both leaders also exchanged views on the situation in South Asia.
Asked about the outcome of Khan's visit and his talks with the Chinese leaders, Geng said, "I would like to stress that Pakistan is China's 'All Weather Strategic Cooperative Partner'."
Both the countries are "Iron Brothers", he said, adding that "we firmly support each other on the issues concerning our core interests. Pakistan is always one of China's diplomatic priorities".
"No matter how the international and regional situation may evolve, we firmly support Pakistan in safeguarding its sovereignty and dignity, independently choosing its development path based on its own conditions, securing a sound external environment and playing a constructive role in international and regional affairs," he said.
"We commend the Pakistani government's and people's efforts in fighting terrorism and extremism and their great endeavours and sacrifices to this end," he said, lauding Pakistan's counter terrorism efforts.
"We call on the international community to fairly and justly see Pakistan's endeavours and contributions in counter terrorism and step up dialogue and cooperation with the country," he said.
China and Pakistan will continue to deepen their high level exchanges and support each other and step up strategic coordination, "make more coordinated efforts in international and regional affairs and deepen our all weather strategic cooperation," he added.