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China Wages Diplomatic Offensive With Arab Countries

February 29, 2012

Stephanie Ho | Beijing

China is waging a diplomatic offensive to mend ties with Arab countries, especially those that were angered by its veto of a United Nations resolution condemning the violence in Syria.

At a regular briefing Wednesday, spokesman Hong Lei gave details of phone conversations Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi has had in recent days with the head of the Arab League, as well as counterparts from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Algeria.

He says Syria was the main topic of discussion.

Hong says the Chinese foreign minister urged the international community to create favorable conditions to provide humanitarian assistance to Syria.

He adds that Beijing values the role of the Arab League in resolving the crisis in Syria and is, in his words, “ready to work with Arab countries” to push for a peaceful settlement of the crisis as soon as possible.

The spokesman says China is deeply worried about the escalating violence in Syria. He had strong and direct words for the Syrian government, which many in the international community blame for killing its own people.

He says the Chinese government calls on all parties in Syria to stop the violence, singling out the Syrian government specifically. He adds that Beijing calls on the Syrian government to heed what he described as the “reasonable appeals of the Syrian people for reform.”

The Chinese comments come as members of the United Nations Security Council are drafting a resolution on Syria that focuses on seeking an end to the fighting so that humanitarian aid can get to besieged towns.

China and Russia vetoed a U.N. resolution on February 4 that would have backed an Arab League proposal for the Syrian president to step down.

At the time, Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby said Russia and China have lost diplomatic credit in the Arab world because of their vetoes. China defended its decision by saying it was aimed at avoiding more casualties in Syria, even though the death toll there has continued to mount.

The Chinese spokesman did not say Wednesday whether his government would support any new U.N. resolutions, but only that any action the world body takes must abide by its charter.

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