March 14, 2012 / 5:50 AM / 7 years ago

China's Wen says no favorites in Syria; stance unchanged

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s Premier Wen Jiabao said on Wednesday that Beijing has no favorites in the Syrian crisis and that he is “deeply pained” by the suffering of the Syrian people, though his remarks do not suggest Beijing’s diplomatic stance will change.

“China has no personal interests on the issue of Syria and China does not seek to protect any party, including the government of Syria,” Wen said, speaking at a news conference at the end of the annual meeting of China’s parliament.

China and Russia have blocked moves in the United Nations to censure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a position which met with outrage from Western and Arab nations. Beijing and Moscow have also welcomed the Syrian leader’s reform pledges, including a promised election.

“As the Arab world undergoes changes, I believe that the position of the Chinese side will win the understanding and trust of Arab countries and eventually relations and exchanges between China and Arab countries will strengthen,” Wen said.

For months China and Russia have opposed action against Assad, and have vowed to stop the United States, Britain and France from pursuing regime change in Syria.

Wen also urged all sides in Syria to cease attacks on civilians, and said China respects the reasonable demands for change from the Syrian people.

Earlier on Wednesday, state media said China will offer $2 million in humanitarian assistance to Syria through the Red Cross, another in a series of gestures aimed at repairing relationships in the Middle East.

Beijing wants to counter accusations from Western and Arab leaders that it, along with Russia, abetted expanding violence by Assad’s forces against civilians by vetoing the UN resolutions on the crisis.

Assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Ming, who was sent by Beijing to Egypt this month, has urged members of the United Nations Security Council to adopt resolutions that are “generally accepted by all”, reiterating China’s stance that the “authorized use of force, or forced regime change ... are undesirable”.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Writing by Daniel Magnowski; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani

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