by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) May 7, 2012
China said Monday it hoped parliamentary elections being held in Syria would help promote reform in the conflict-torn country, as the leader of the nation's opposition visited Beijing.
Syria is currently holding its first "multiparty" parliamentary elections in five decades, but the polls have been dismissed as a sham by the main opposition forces, which have refused to participate.
"We hope this will help promote Syria's reform process and respond to the reasonable requests of the Syrian people for the protection of their interests," foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters.
His comments came as Burhan Ghalioun, head of the opposition Syrian National Council, visited China. He is due to meet foreign ministry officials on his trip, which ends Wednesday, but no other information has been released so far.
China has traditionally backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and it drew international criticism earlier this year for vetoing two UN Security Council resolutions on the crisis, along with Russia.
But at the same time, Beijing has made contact with opposition parties in the country.
It has also backed UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's efforts to bring peace to Syria in the form of a six-point proposal agreed by Damascus that includes a ceasefire and withdrawal of troops.
Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi is also currently on a trip to China during which he will meet with Vice President Xi Jinping and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, Hong said, adding that Syria would be on the agenda.
"We hope parties concerned in Syria can... fully implement the commitment of a ceasefire and troop withdrawal, and earnestly and comprehensively implement... special envoy Annan's six-point proposal," he said.
Hong also called on all parties in Syria to cooperate with a UN mission deployed in the country, which has reported violations from both the government and opposition since the peace proposal came into effect on April 12.
Syria has been swept by raging unrest since March last year, when Assad resorted to force to quash a revolt against his autocratic regime.
According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group opposed to Assad, more than 11,100 people have died in the violence, mostly civilians.
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