by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Aug 15, 2012
China's top state newspaper accused Western powers Wednesday of hampering international efforts to end the bloody conflict in Syria, as a senior Damascus envoy visited Beijing for talks with leaders.
The People's Daily, mouthpiece of the governing Communist party, said in a commentary that China would press for a political solution to the crisis during this week's visit by a special advisor to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
China and Russia have repeatedly used their vetoes to scuttle UN Security Council resolutions aimed at tackling the conflict, putting them at loggerheads with fellow permanent members the United States, Britain and France.
"Some Western countries have never given up the goal of 'regime change' in Syria and constantly reinforced their support for the anti-government forces," said a commentary in the paper.
That stance had "undermined the unity within the UN Security Council and prevented the international community from reaching a consensus and (outgoing peace envoy Kofi) Annan's mediation efforts from taking effect," it said.
The United States has urged Beijing to use its influence on the embattled regime in Damascus to press for an end to the bloodshed during the visit, with the 17-month conflict showing no signs of abating.
But China's communist leaders are deeply uncomfortable with what they see as Western intervention in other countries' internal affairs.
In a brief statement Monday, China said that Bouthaina Shaaban, special adviser to Assad, would be in Beijing this week for talks, and that it was considering inviting members of the Syrian opposition to visit.
Since then, no details of her visit have emerged and the foreign ministry did not respond to AFP requests for information on her meetings.
On Tuesday Syria's former prime minister, the highest profile government figure to defect, said the regime was "collapsed militarily, economically and morally" and now controlled only 30 percent of Syria's territory.
The conflict has killed more than 23,000 people since March last year, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The UN says more than a million people have been displaced and another 140,000 have fled to Syria's neighbours.
Beijing earlier this year gave its backing for the peace plan of outgoing peace envoy Annan, who resigned earlier this month in the face of continued violence and a deadlock among world powers.
In its commentary, the People's Daily said Shaaban's visit was a "diplomatic effort by China to push for a political solution to the Syrian issue and shows China's high sense of responsibility for world peace".
"China has no private interests in the Syrian issue. China is determined to resolve the Syrian issue at an early date within the UN framework in a fair, just and appropriate manner," it said.
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