Fri, August 17, 2012
China > China & World

Beijing urges Syria, opposition to begin negotiations

2012-08-17 02:53:12 GMT2012-08-17 10:53:12(Beijing Time)  China Daily

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi greets Syrian government envoy Bouthaina Shaaban in Beijing on Thursday. Feng Yongbin / China Daily

China on Thursday urged the Syrian government and the opposition to start an early dialogue as clashes continue in the Middle Eastern country.

Speaking in Beijing, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said during a meeting with Bouthaina Shaaban, the political and media adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, that Damascus should also adopt practical measures to meet the people's reasonable demand for reform, and push forward the political transition process.

China is "deeply concerned" about the situation in Syria, Yang said, urging the international community to play a constructive role leading the country out of its current crisis.

Shaaban said Syria is interested in working with interested parties for a cease-fire with opposition groups, adding the government wants to begin inclusive dialogue to promote a political process dominated by Syria itself.

The envoy's visit to Beijing is widely believed to be an sffort to seek support from China, which also invited members of opposition groups to visit the country after it was estimated that more than 18,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

Hua Liming, the former Chinese ambassador to Iran and an expert on Middle East issues, told Chinese media that both the Syrian government and the opposition hope to get support from China, and expect China to find a solution to the crisis.

Efforts by the United Nations and regional blocs to end the 18-month conflict have so far failed.

On Thursday, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation suspended Syria's membership in the 57-member bloc, a decision hailed by the United States as "a strong message to the Assad regime".

But the suspension will not change the Syrian situation, said Li Guofu, director of Middle East studies with the China Institute of International Studies."What really changes the situation is the West's sanctions on Syria and its support for the opposition," Li said.

Both sides now possess heavy weapons. A UN expert panel released a report on Wednesday saying for the first time that both the Assad government and the opposition are guilty of war crimes.

One day later, UN aid chief Valerie Amos said she was still pushing Damascus to allow international aid organizations to operate in Syria, warning that more than 1 million Syrians faced "destitution".

But Shaaban refuted such allegations during an interview with China Daily on Wednesday, saying nothing from international organizations has arrived in Syria, although the government has expressed its desire for aid in many meetings with the groups.

The UN Security Council on Thursday will debate whether to establish a new civilian office to support UN and Arab League efforts to end the conflict in Syria as the UN's unarmed observer mission comes to an end on Sunday.

The US and many European members of the council have argued for a termination of the mission, while Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told Washington on Thursday that it favors a continued UN presence in Syria, saying a UN exit would have "serious negative consequences".

After Kofi Annan's resignation on Aug 2 as the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, a spokesman for the former UN secretary-general said Syrian authorities have backed former Algerian foreign minister Lakhdar Brahimi, a veteran UN diplomat, as Annan's successor. But it was unclear whether Brahimi had accepted the post.

France's UN ambassador, Gerard Araud, on Thursday said the envoy's mission is a bit impossible, but added the UN "simply can't leave the room" in case "there is any prospect of launching a political process".

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