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China talks with Syria opposition on crisis

By Cui Haipei (China Daily)

14:08, February 10, 2012

BEIJING - China said on Thursday that a Syrian opposition delegation visited the country this week and met a deputy foreign minister, a sign that China is taking tangible steps to promote peace in the country, experts said.

The delegation from the Syrian National Coordination Body for Democratic Change, lead by its deputy general coordinator Hassan Mana, made a four-day trip to China and left on Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said at a regular news briefing.

Deputy Foreign Minister Zhai Jun and other senior diplomats met with them, Liu said, adding that both sides exchanged views on the situation in Syria, and China explained its principles and position and called on all sides to immediately stop the violence.

"The Syrian government should earnestly fulfill its promises to start an inclusive reform process that has wide participation, and resolve disputes via talks and consultations," he said, reiterating that China was a friend of the Syrian people.

"China is willing to maintain contact and communication with relevant Syrian opposition groups, push and encourage talks and make great efforts to ameliorate the situation."

The delegation said it appreciated China's stance on the Middle East and hoped it would play an even greater role so that Syria can emerge from the crisis at an early date, Liu added.

China and Russia last week vetoed a UN resolution urging President Bashar al-Assad to quit after months of riot.

Ye Hailin, an international relations professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the visit showed that China, which is being a responsible country, is staying engaged in the Syrian crisis, and the veto means that China does not intentionally oppose anyone, particularly the opposition.

"It is positive and necessary for the Chinese government to contact both sides, since it has always sought a peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis," Ye said, adding that it was the first contact reported in the wake of its veto. "Simply using the veto is nothing but to prevent it from escalating, and concrete measures like this really help."

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