China lends support to Arab League plan to end crisis in Syria
China said yesterday that it favoured a solution to Syria's violence within the Arab League framework and based on the group's proposals. This is a striking show of support just two weeks after Beijing vetoed a UN Security Council resolution backing the league's plans.
The seemingly contradictory stances on the Arab League's proposals appear to reflect Beijing's desire for mediation and its aversion to UN involvement that could lead to authorising force, as happened with Libya.
The statement, posted on the foreign ministry's website, followed a meeting in Damascus between Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun and Syrian President Bashar Assad.
It quoted Mr Zhai as telling Mr Assad that China was willing to work with the Syrian government and opposition, the Arab League, and Arab countries to find a solution.
"China supports all the mediation efforts by the Arab League to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis and calls upon relevant parties to increase communication and negotiations to find a peaceful and appropriate solution to the Syrian within the framework of the Arab League and on the basis of the Arab League's relevant political solution proposals," Mr Zhai was quoted as saying.
Also yesterday, a ruling party newspaper said in an editorial that China courageously defied the West when it opposed a non-binding resolution in the UN General Assembly condemning human rights violations in Syria.
The vote against the resolution, which was overwhelming approved last Thursday, indicates China's rising influence in world affairs, the Global Times said.
"The country's courage to truly express itself and to calmly stand its ground is worthy of merit," the paper said.
"It is wrong to blindly come down on the side of the West in each vote," it said.
The Global Times is published by the Communist Party's flagship People's Daily newspaper and its editorials generally reflect the more pugnacious side of government opinion.
China, which carried out a crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in 1989, has refused to condemn Syria over the violence. Beijing's leaders generally oppose any moves that could lead to humanitarian interventions, such as last year's Nato air campaign in Libya.
Syrian security forces opened fire yesterday on civilians in Damascus, where thousands had rallied for the funeral of civilians killed the day before. The regime carried out arrests in the southern province of Daraa and the eastern town of Deir al-Zour, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
At least five people were killed yesterday, following a death toll of 31 on Friday.
The US, European Union and Arab League, which backed the resolution vetoed by China and Russia, will attend a "Friends of Syria" meeting in Tunisia next week aimed at co-ordinating support for the opposition to Mr Assad.
The UN says more than 5,400 people were killed in Syria last year, and the number rises daily.
In addition, 25,000 people are estimated to have sought refuge in neighbouring countries and more than 70,000 are internally displaced.