China Hosts Talks With Syrian Aide

As violence in Syria continues, China and Russia have garnered criticism due to their vetoes against the United Nations’ resolution. The BBC reports that, in an effort to resolve the conflict, China is hosting Syria President Bashar al-Assad’s aide for talks on the crisis:

A senior aide to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has flown to China for talks on the crisis, officials say.

The Chinese foreign ministry said Bouthaina Shaaban would meet Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi later.

The ministry said it was part of its effort to implement the UN’s six-point peace plan. China has twice vetoed UN resolutions against the Assad regime.

She is expected to ask for more visas for foreign aid workers as the Syrian Arab Red Crescent struggles to distribute food.

While China is holding talks with Assad’s aide, they are also considering inviting opposition party leaders to visit. From AFP:

China was also considering inviting members of the Syrian opposition to visit soon, it said, but gave no details.

The statement repeated China’s calls for an immediate ceasefire and political dialogue to resolve the Syria crisis.

Beijing earlier this month expressed regret over former UN chief Kofi Annan’s resignation as international envoy for Syria and said it would continue to “work for a political resolution” to the conflict.

China’s foreign ministry commented on the visit and claimed China is taking an ‘actively balanced’ stance on the crisis, Reuters adds:

China has said it is simply trying to prevent more violence. Opposition sources say at least 18,000 people have been killed since rebels began fighting to oust Assad in March last year.

“To promote the political solution to the Syria problem, China has always actively balanced its work between the Syrian government and the opposition,” ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a brief statement on the ministry’s website (www.mfa.gov.cn).

Qin reiterated China’s call for the “practical implementation” of Kofi Annan’s peace plan, which is now essentially dead, and for “an immediate ceasefire and for the violence to stop; for the effective protection of civilians and to defuse the crisis through political dialogue.”

“Receiving Shaaban in China is part of the above-mentioned work by the Chinese side,” Qin said. “Meanwhile, China is also considering inviting Syrian opposition groups in the near term to China.”

According to the Washington Post, China is stepping up the dialogue on Syria to deflect criticism:

China sought to defuse criticism of its policy on Syria’s violence, saying while hosting a government envoy Tuesday that opposition figures may also visit Beijing soon.

China and Russia have been sharply criticized by the United States and other Western countries for vetoing Security Council resolutions that might have opened the door to sanctions on Syria and ultimately force Assad from power.

China has strongly rejected criticism that it was hampering efforts to end the Syrian conflict.

Annan and U.S. officials have come to Beijing recently to seek China’s backing on the U.N.’s resolutions, or to at least abstain as it did in the Libyan case, but there have been no signs that China will change its stance.

Although China and Russia have both vetoed the UN’s resolution and cooperation continues between the two countries, analysts claim China is taking a more active role in resolving the Syrian conflict. From China Daily:

“Russia has never publicly invited the opposition in Syria. But China has invited both sides. This is the difference between China and Russia,” Shi Yinhong, also a professor at Renmin University of China told Reuters.

“Syria government is more vulnerable than before. The opposition has gained new-found support from the West, but they’re also fragile. China has a pressing need to talk to the two sides. The situation is nearing an end,” he added.

China’s mediation will yield positive influence over the situation, and push it to ease the tension, Zhang said, but it needs more time and efforts from all related parties to solve the issue.

Read more about China’s role in the Syrian Crisis, via CDT.

August 14, 2012 9:26 AM
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