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China's envoy arrives in Syria to discuss months-long crisis

2012-03-06 14:54:31 GMT2012-03-06 22:54:31(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

China's special envoy to Syria Li Huaxin (R) meets with Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Ahmad Arnous in Damascus, March 6, 2012. Li said here Tuesday that his visit comes as part of China's diplomatic efforts to find a solution to the Syrian issue. (Xinhua/Hazim)

China's special envoy to Syria Li Huaxin (C) speaks to reporters upon his arrival in Damascus, March 6, 2012. Li said here Tuesday that his visit comes as part of China's diplomatic efforts to find a solution to the Syrian issue. (Xinhua/Hazim)

DAMASCUS, March 6 (Xinhua) -- Li Huaxin, China's former Ambassador to Syria, arrived in Syria's capital Damascus Tuesday to hold talks with Syrian officials, calling mainly for an immediate cease-fire and talks by all parties while rejecting foreign intervention in Syria's affairs.

During his two-day visit, Li is set to meet with Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, Deputy Foreign Minister Ahmad Arnous and some Damascus-based opponents.

On Sunday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a six-point statement for the political resolution on the Syrian issue, calling for ceasing all acts of violence, launching an inclusive political dialogue, supporting humanitarian relief efforts, respecting Syria's sovereignty, welcoming the appointment of the Joint Special Envoy on the Syrian crisis by the UN and the Arab League, and maintaining that UN Security Council members should abide by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and the basic norms governing international relations.

"China does not approve of armed interference or pushing for ' regime change' in Syria, and believes that use or threat of sanctions does not help to resolve this issue appropriately," said the ministry.

"We oppose anyone interfering in Syria's internal affairs under the pretext of humanitarian issues," it added.

China's recent efforts come as the international community has started to send signals that military intervention in Syria is not fully excluded.

Even though the U.S. government seems to favor a diplomatic solution to the Syrian crisis for now, calling on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down to make way for a peaceful transition, some voices inside President Barack Obama's administration have started to go in another direction.

U.S. Senator John McCain, for example, sees that the only " realistic way" to protect civilians in Syria is through "foreign air power."

On Monday, McCain claimed that "providing military assistance to the Free Syrian Army, anti-government militia and other opposition groups is necessary, but at this late hour, that alone will not be sufficient to stop the slaughter and save innocent lives."

"The only realistic way to do so is with foreign air power," he argued. "To be clear: This will require the United States to suppress the enemy's air defense in at least part of the country."

Many observers believed that the new statement by the republican senator came after the Syrian army squashed pockets of armed groups in Homs and other restive areas, suggesting that the West thought that it could burn Syria from inside without simmering their hands and thrusting their troops in a Libya-like scenario.

The Chinese envoy's visit coincided with the visit of Valerie Amos, UN's under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, who is expected to set foot in Damascus late Tuesday for a two-day visit.

Syria's state-run SANA news agency said Amos would hold talks with Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, his deputy and the head of the Syrian Red Crescent, and "would also visit some areas across Syria."

Amos' visit aims to urge all parties to allow unhindered access for humanitarian relief workers so that they can evacuate the wounded and deliver essential supplies, according to the UN.

Also, Kofi Annan, the United Nations and Arab League envoy to Syria, will visit Damascus in the coming days, according to UN sources.

Syria's foreign ministry spokesman told Xinhua Monday that his country welcomed Annan's visit but noted that the date is yet to be determined.

Syria's government said last December that "armed terrorist groups" had killed more than 2,000 army and security personnel, while the UN said recently that "well over" 7,500 people have died in Syria's violence.

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