China urges Syria government, rebels to start dialogue
LONDON (Reuters) - China urged the Syrian government and rebels trying to oust President Bashar al-Assad to end all acts of violence, especially against civilians.
It also urged the government and rebels to "launch an inclusive political dialogue with no preconditions" under the mediation of the newly appointed U.N.-Arab League envoy on the Syria crisis, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
"The Syrian government and all parties concerned should immediately, fully and unconditionally cease all acts of violence, particularly violence against innocent civilians," said a Foreign Ministry statement carried by Xinhua news agency early on Sunday Beijing time and monitored in London.
"It is deeply worrying that the situation in Syria remains grave," a Chinese Foreign Ministry official said.
But since violent clashes were continuing, political dialogue could not yet start and prospects for a peaceful settlement to the crisis were still dim, the official said.
Syrian forces bombarded parts of the shattered city of Homs on Saturday and for a second day blocked Red Cross aid meant for civilians stranded for weeks without food and fuel in the former rebel stronghold, activists and aid workers said.
The renewed government assault came a day after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he had received reports that Assad's troops were executing, imprisoning and torturing people in Syria's third largest city.
The United Nations says security forces have killed more than 7,500 civilians during an 11-month government crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. The government says 2,000 members of the security forces have been killed.
The statement said China supported the United Nations' leading role in coordinating humanitarian relief efforts and was ready to provide humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people.
But it added: "We oppose anyone interfering in Syria's internal affairs under the pretext of 'humanitarian' issues."
The international community should respect the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Syria and the right of the Syrian people to independently choose their political system, the statement said.
It said China did not approve of armed interference or pushing for "regime change" in Syria, and the use or threat of sanctions did not help resolve the issue.
China and Russia joined other U.N. Security Council members on Thursday in expressing "deep disappointment" at Syria's failure to allow the U.N. humanitarian aid chief Valerie Amos to visit the country and urged that she be allowed in immediately.
China and Russia have twice vetoed Security Council resolutions condemning Damascus and calling for an end to the violence, saying Western and Arab nations are pushing for Libya-style "regime change" in Syria.
Russia, China and Cuba voted against a resolution adopted overwhelmingly on Thursday by the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council which condemned Syria for violations that it said may amount to crimes against humanity.