Syrian government envoy praises China, Russia as "non-colonizers"

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 15, 2012 11:16 PM

BEIJING (Reuters) - A Syrian government envoy praised China and Russia on their stance towards the bloody conflict engulfing her country in an interview published on Thursday during a visit to Beijing that she said would give officials a "real picture" of the crisis.

Envoy Bouthaina Shaaban's interview with the state-run China Daily was the first public comment from her trip to Beijing, where she arrived on Tuesday, and she sought to cast China as a steadfast friend of President Bashar al-Assad's government, which is beset by a civil war with opposition forces.

"We're happy to see countries like China and Russia, who are not colonizers or deal with people as colonizers," Shaaban told the English-language newspaper, adding that this is "a very different stance from the West".

She said her visit would give "the Chinese leadership a real picture of what's going on in Syria".

In a separate interview with the popular Chinese-language tabloid the Global Times, Shaaban said she hoped Syria's friends in Russia, Iran and China could "help find a solution" to the crisis.

She also dismissed comments by former Syrian Prime Minister Riyad Hijab, who has fled to Jordan, that Assad only controls 30 percent of the country and his power is crumbling.

"What Hijab said was lies. He knows that very well," Shaaban said.

"Anyone who does not have faith in the Syrian authorities or system can leave. But the number of defectors has been obviously exaggerated."

Shaaban, an adviser to Assad, was due to meet Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi later on Thursday, said the report. China has so far not disclosed what its officials have told the envoy.

On Wednesday, the official People's Daily said China hoped the talks with the envoy and a proposed visit by opposition representatives would help rekindle hopes for a brokered solution to the violence in Syria.

But Chinese media commentary has also underscored the extent to which Beijing remains resistant to Western proposals for more forceful steps in Syria, where the tide turns steadily against Assad.

Opposition sources say at least 18,000 people have been killed since rebels began fighting to oust Assad in March 2011.

Apart from Iran, China and Russia have been Syria's main supporters outside the Arab world. Both vetoed proposed U.N. Security Council resolutions intended to put Assad under more pressure.

Though the former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan quit in frustration as the international peace envoy for Syria early this month, China has continued to argue that his proposals offer the most viable way out of the increasingly bloody war.

(Reporting by Chris Buckley and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)