February 9, 2012 / 7:48 AM / 6 years ago

China says Syrian opposition visited, first such contract

BEIJING (Reuters) - China said on Thursday that a Syrian opposition delegation had visited the country this week and met a vice foreign minister, the first contact reported by Beijing in the wake of its veto in the U.N. of a draft resolution on the country.

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, leaving on Thursday,

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said.

They met Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun and other senior diplomats.

“Both sides exchanged views on the present situation in Syria and China explained its principles and position ... and called on all sides to immediately stop the violence,” Liu told a daily news briefing.

“The Syrian government should earnestly fulfill its promises, urgently begin an inclusive reform process that has wide participation, and resolve disputes and conflicts via talks and consultations,” he said, repeating that China was a friend of the Syrian people.

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

China will “make unstinting efforts towards peace and stability in Syria,” he said.

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

The mainly Syria-based National Coordination Body is opposed to foreign intervention in the crisis, but not Arab involvement.

China joined Russia at the weekend to veto the resolution in the Security Council that would have backed an Arab plan urging President Bashar al-Assad to quit after months of worsening bloodshed.

The veto has been heavily condemned by Western governments and many in the Arab world.

Beijing has rejected criticism of its veto of the resolution, insisting that it was committed to the long-term interests of the Syrian people.

Earlier this week, the Chinese government said it was considering sending an envoy to the Middle East to discuss the crisis in Syria.

Opposition sources in Syria on Thursday said that armored reinforcements were pouring into Homs as Assad’s forces bombarded the city for a fourth day, worsening the humanitarian situation and prompting a new diplomatic push from Turkey.

Editing by Jonathan Thatcher

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