China talks with Syria opposition on crisis

Updated: 2012-02-10 09:37

By Cui Haipei (China Daily)

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BEIJING - China said on Thursday that a Syrian opposition delegation visited the country this week and met a deputy foreign minister, a sign that China is taking tangible steps to promote peace in the country, experts said.

The delegation from the Syrian National Coordination Body for Democratic Change, lead by its deputy general coordinator Hassan Mana, made a four-day trip to China and left on Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said at a regular news briefing.

Deputy Foreign Minister Zhai Jun and other senior diplomats met with them, Liu said, adding that both sides exchanged views on the situation in Syria, and China explained its principles and position and called on all sides to immediately stop the violence.

"The Syrian government should earnestly fulfill its promises to start an inclusive reform process that has wide participation, and resolve disputes via talks and consultations," he said, reiterating that China was a friend of the Syrian people.

"China is willing to maintain contact and communication with relevant Syrian opposition groups, push and encourage talks and make great efforts to ameliorate the situation."

The delegation said it appreciated China's stance on the Middle East and hoped it would play an even greater role so that Syria can emerge from the crisis at an early date, Liu added.

China and Russia last week vetoed a UN resolution urging President Bashar al-Assad to quit after months of riot.

Ye Hailin, an international relations professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the visit showed that China, which is being a responsible country, is staying engaged in the Syrian crisis, and the veto means that China does not intentionally oppose anyone, particularly the opposition.

"It is positive and necessary for the Chinese government to contact both sides, since it has always sought a peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis," Ye said, adding that it was the first contact reported in the wake of its veto. "Simply using the veto is nothing but to prevent it from escalating, and concrete measures like this really help."

Last week's veto by China and Russia was criticized by the United States and some European countries. Beijing has rejected the criticism, insisting that it is committed to the long-term interests of the Syrian people and that the vote was called before differences had been bridged.

Deputy Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai reiterated on Thursday China's opposition to any measure that encourages intervention by force or regime change.

While it was natural for the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to disagree, such differences do not rule out future cooperation, he said, and there's a tradition among the five countries to accommodate each other's major concerns.

"Mutual accusations have little value and don't solve problems," Cui told reporters. China believes that in international relations one state should not rashly use force or the threat of force, and one shouldn't use external intervention to achieve regime change in another country, he said.

"When necessary, China will of course use its veto. When China has to show its hand, China will certainly show its hand. Nobody should have any illusions that China always uses abstention," he said, emphasizing that China has only used its veto eight times since 1971, which is much less than some of the other permanent members of the Security Council.

"I believe we can still cooperate because both of us want to see stability in that region, both of us call for a solution through dialogue," Cui said. "So I think there is still scope for cooperation between China and the US and between other members of the Security Council on this issue."

In accordance with China's developing international impact, Cui's speech indicates that China is more and more confident when facing such censuring, said Wang Junsheng, also a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Wang said China can feel Syria's pain as outside forces seek regime change in the country, since China never accepts interference by other countries in its internal affairs.

"Even if China might not stop further moves of the US and its followers, China has to make its intention clear," he added.

Reuters contributed to this story.