China news agency: Still hope for Syria peace

It is still possible for the Syrian crisis to be resolved peacefully, says China's official state news agency.

By REUTERS
February 19, 2012 10:06
1 minute read.
Chinese diplomats in Damascus

Chinese diplomats in Damascus_390. (photo credit: Reuters)

BEIJING - There is still hope that the Syrian crisis can be resolved peacefully through talks, as any armed intervention will only spread turmoil through the region, China's official Xinhua news agency said on Sunday after a Chinese envoy visited Syria.

China and Russia infuriated Western and Arab states this month by blocking a draft UN Security Council resolution that backed an Arab plan urging Syrian President Bashar Assad to quit amid his government's violent crackdown on opposition protests.

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Stung by the criticism, China has since sent envoys to the region to seek a diplomatic solution, including Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun, who met Assad in Damascus on Saturday and backed his plans for a referendum and multi-party elections.

"China believes, as many others do, there is still hope the Syria crisis can be resolved through peaceful dialogue between the opposition and the government, contrary to some Western countries' argument that time is running out for talks in Syria," Xinhua said in an English-language commentary.

"Among Syria's assorted opposition groups, some have voiced a willingness to hold dialogue with the Syrian government and also warned those seeking outside intervention against becoming a tool of the West," it added.

"However, their calls for peaceful inter-Syrian dialogue have been largely ignored, intentionally or unintentionally, in Western media reports, which convey the wrong impression that there is an overwhelming consensus among different factions of the opposition forces that they want foreign intervention in their country."

Assad announced his plan on Wednesday for a referendum on a new constitution on Feb. 26 followed by a multi-party election. The Syrian opposition and the West dismissed it as sham.

China and Russia have been Assad's most important international defenders during the crackdown which has killed several thousand people and divided world powers. The United Nations, the United States, Europe, Turkey and Arab powers want Assad to step down and have condemned the repression.

Zhai also met opposition groups while he was in Syria.

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