China avoids clear support for U.N. peacekeepers in Syria

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 13, 2012 6:14 AM
China avoids clear support for U.N. peacekeepers in Syria

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's Foreign Ministry on Monday backed Arab League mediation in Syria but offered no clear sign of support for the league's call to send in peacekeepers to halt the Syrian government's violent crackdown on opposition groups.

The Arab League on Sunday passed a resolution asking the U.N. Security Council to authorize a joint U.N.-Arab peacekeeping mission to Syria.

The call adds to diplomatic pressure on Russia and China, both heavily criticized by the West for blocking a draft U.N. resolution calling for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Assad to give up his powers.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin would not be drawn on whether China supports sending in peacekeepers.

"China calls for and supports the Arab League's continued efforts at political mediation, which plays a proactive and constructive role with regard to peaceful settlement of the Syrian issue," Liu said, when asked about the Arab League resolution.

"We believe the United Nations should offer constructive assistance on the basis of the U.N. charter and the norms of international relations," he told a daily news briefing.

"Relevant moves by the United Nations should be conducive towards lessening tension in Syria, pushing political dialogue and resolving differences, as well as maintaining peace and stability in the Middle East, rather than complicating things."

Any U.N. peacekeeping mission needs consensus from foreign powers which have been divided on how to resolve a conflict as it descends into civil war.

The Arab League's resolution did not spell out whether its proposed joint U.N.-Arab peacekeeping force would involve armed troops, or whether the aid offered to the opposition would include weapons.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Monday any peacekeeping troops in Syria should come from non-Western countries.

Syria's uprising, in which the United Nations says more than 5,000 people have been killed, has become one of the bloodiest of the Arab Spring revolts sweeping the region since the end of 2010.

The head of the Arab League, Nabil Elaraby, has said China and Russia lost diplomatic credit in the Arab world for their veto of the February 4 U.N Security Council draft resolution.

China insists that it is committed to the long-term interests of the Syrian people.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Writing by Michael Martina, Editing by Robert Birsel)