Last updated: 31 October, 2012

Envoy urges China to play active role in Syrian crisis

UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said Wednesday he hoped China would play an active role in helping end the violence in Syria as he met Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi for talks in Beijing.

Greeting Yang at the foreign ministry in front of reporters, Brahimi said he hoped “China can play an active role in solving the events in Syria” without elaborating further.

China is generally suspicious of intervention in the internal affairs of other nations.

Both China and Russia have exercised their veto in the UN Security Council to block resolutions aimed at putting more pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Meeting him on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York last month, Yang reaffirmed this stance, saying that “political dialogue is the only correct way to tackle this issue”.

Any political transition must be led by the people of Syria and not imposed by outside forces, he said.

Yang also met the Syrian president’s envoy in August and an opposition delegation the next month, both times stressing the need for dialogue, the foreign ministry said on its website.

He warned the opposition about outside forces directing any political transition, while he told the president’s envoy that both sides in the conflict should work with international mediation efforts.

Analysts say China’s hesitance to back further action in Syria may stem from its discomfort with Western-led military intervention after last year’s uprising in Libya, which eventually led to the fall of leader Moamer Kadhafi.

China opposed military action in Libya but did not veto a March 2011 Security Council resolution authorising the operation, yet believes the West misinterpreted the resolution and went too far.

Brahimi, who succeeded former United Nations chief Kofi Annan after he quit over what he called a lack of international support, is due to present new proposals for resolving the Syria conflict to the UN Security Council next month.

His two-day visit to China, which ends Wednesday, came after he met Russia’s foreign minister in Moscow on Monday and described the conflict, now in its 19th month after a failed four-day truce last week, as going from bad to worse.

Brahimi had hoped the truce, timed to the Muslim Eid Al-Adha holiday, might lead to a longer cease-fire and a political solution to a conflict that rights groups say has claimed 35,000 lives.

“I have said it and it bears repeating again and again that the Syrian crisis is very, very dangerous, the situation is bad and getting worse,” he said in Moscow. “If that is not civil war, I do not know what is.”

A Syrian fighter jet on Tuesday dropped bombs inside the capital Damascus for the first time since the conflict began, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported, in an escalation from helicopter gunships.

The military also renewed shelling attacks on the northern city and province of Aleppo and other parts of the country.