Last updated: 7 February, 2012

China mulls sending envoys to the Middle East after Syria veto

China said Tuesday it was considering sending its own envoys to the Middle East to help resolve the conflict in Syria, after it vetoed a UN resolution aimed at ending a deadly crackdown in the restive state.

Beijing also expressed hope that a visit to Damascus by the foreign minister of Russia — which also vetoed the resolution — would pay off as the two nations came under a barrage of international condemnation over the rejection.

Thirteen countries voted for the UN Security Council resolution Saturday, which aimed to back the Arab League’s plan to end violence in Syria, where opposition groups say more than 6,000 people have died in a government crackdown.

“China is… considering sending people to relevant countries in the region so as to play a constructive role in the political settlement of the Syrian issue,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters.

“We hope the mediation efforts by the Russian side can pay off,” he added, ahead of a visit to Damascus by Sergei Lavrov.

“We will continue to support the constructive and positive role played by the Arab League.”

The rare double veto came hours after the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) reported a “massacre” in the central flashpoint city of Homs with more than 230 civilians killed during an overnight assault by regime forces.

It immediately drew international condemnation, with Syria’s opposition saying Beijing and Moscow had handed President Bashar al-Assad’s regime a “licence to kill”.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused China and Russia of “protecting the brutal regime in Damascus”, calling their veto of the resolution a “travesty”.

Russia’s Lavrov has said the resolution wrongly blamed Assad’s regime alone for the violence and that the text should have also taken aim at the opposition.

He has not divulged the nature of his mission, although analysts have said that he may be intending to persuade Assad to take steps towards stepping down in favour of a deputy, in line with a plan set out by the Arab League.