China says told Syria to stop violence, help U.N. aid

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 08, 2012 3:29 AM
China says told Syria to stop violence, help U.N. aid

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's envoy to Syria told President Bashar al-Assad's government to stop the violence and help the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross send aid to strife-hit areas, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.

Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said the envoy also promoted mediation between the Syrian government and opposition groups.

The trip by envoy Li Huaxin appears to be the latest initiative to counter accusations from Western and Arab governments that China, along with Russia, abetted expanding violence by Assad's forces by vetoing two UN resolutions aimed at pressuring him out of office.

"He urged the Syrian government to stop the violence immediately, actively cooperate with the U.N. and ICRC to ease the humanitarian situation, in particular in Homs," Liu said, summarizing Li's talks with Syrian officials this week.

Opposition-held neighborhoods of Homs have been bombarded into submission by state forces.

Li's comments pressing the Syrian government to halt violence build on a six-point statement issued by Beijing over the weekend. China warned other powers not to use humanitarian aid for Syria to "interfere" and urged Assad's government and other sides to "immediately, fully and unconditionally" stop fighting.

"The Syrian government spoke positively of China's six-point proposal. The Syrian government side states it would like to cooperate with the UN agencies in the humanitarian field, on the basis of respecting Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity," said Liu in his account of the envoy's talks.

Liu said that Li met the Syrian foreign minister, deputy foreign minister and representatives of the three opposition groups. He did not name the groups.

China and other powers have met behind closed doors at the United Nations to discuss a new U.S.-drafted resolution urging an end to the crackdown on the revolt against Assad and unhindered humanitarian access.

As one of the U.N. Security Council's five permanent members, China has the power to veto any resolutions, and it joined Russia to exercise that veto power on Syrian measures in October and February.

The United Nations says Syrian security forces have killed more than 7,500 civilians since the revolt against the Assad family's four decades in power began a year ago.

China has also long been reluctant to back international intervention in domestic turmoil. That wariness was in focus last year when NATO forces cited a U.N. resolution to protect civilians in warring Libya as authority for an air bombing campaign that was crucial to eventually ousting Muammar Gaddafi.

China abstained from the Libya resolution, letting it pass, but it later suggested NATO powers exceeded the U.N. mandate through their expanded bombing campaign.

(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Writing by Chris Buckley; Editing by Ken Wills and Nick Macfie)