Syrian envoy to meet China's foreign minister during four-day visit

Aim of visit is to 'push for political resolution' to two-year-old conflict, says Beijing

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 February, 2013, 4:58am

Syrian deputy foreign minister Faisal Muqdad arrived in Beijing for a four-day visit yesterday, after Syria's opposition offered to hold talks with the Damascus government to end its long bloody conflict.

Muqdad will meet Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and Deputy Foreign Minister and Zhai Jun during his trip, which will end on Thursday.

"The visit is part of China's efforts to push for a political resolution of the Syria issue," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a press briefing.

Syria's foreign minister, Walid Muallem, visited China last April when Yang called on Damascus to embark on a process of inclusive political dialogue and reform.

With the new leadership of Beijing already lined up, the Syrian regime wants to know whether China will handle Syria with a different approach

China has attempted to show it is not taking sides in the crisis by hosting members from both Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime and the opposition. Last September, Beijing hosted a Syrian opposition leader, a month after doing the same for a Syrian presidential envoy. UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi also visited China last month.

But China and Russia triggered an international outcry last year after they blocked three UN Security Council resolutions aimed at putting pressure on Assad's regime to end the crisis, which has lasted for almost two years and killed more than 60,000 people.

Beijing has opposed military intervention in Syria and said the international community should respect the sovereignty of countries in the region.

Moaz al-Khatib, the head of the Syrian opposition movement, said last week that he was "ready for direct discussions with representatives of the Syrian regime in Cairo, Tunis or Istanbul".

Pang Zhongying , a professor of international relations at Renmin University, said Muqdad's visit was intended to find out whether Beijing had changed its stance towards the problems in Syria.

"With the new leadership of Beijing already lined up, the Syrian regime wants to know whether China will handle Syria with a different approach."

But Pang said Beijing would only strengthen communications with various Syrian parties instead of making drastic changes.


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