August 23, 2011 / 10:56 AM / 7 years ago

China criticizes foreign pressure on Syria

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s foreign ministry on Tuesday decried foreign pressure on Syria following calls from the United States and Europe for President Bashar al-Assad to step down, saying the country’s future should be decided internally.

All sides in Syria should exercise maximum restraint and abandon violence, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement on the ministry’s website (www.mfa.gov.cn), repeating Beijing’s standard line.

“Syria’s future should be decided by Syria itself,” Ma said.

“The international community’s relevant actions ought to be conducive toward pushing the Syrian government’s promises of reform, and encourage all sides to constructively participate in the political process, to help an early return to stability.”

The U.N. Human Rights Council launched an international commission of inquiry on Tuesday into Syria’s crackdown on anti-government protesters, including possible crimes against humanity, despite objections by Russia, China and Cuba.

The escalating bloodshed in Syria has led Arab states to break months of silence and call for an end to the violence, while the United States and Europe have expanded sanctions against Syria and called on Assad to step down.

While China generally avoids entanglement in the domestic affairs of other nations, it has actively engaged with the rebels in Libya, as well as the government of Muammar Gaddafi.

On Syria though, China has on several occasions called on the world not to get involved, and has kept a relatively modest profile in the tumult sweeping the Middle East and North Africa.

Analysts have said that China will carefully foster ties and trade with new governments across the region, presenting itself as a steadfast friend, and oil customer, of governments that ride out the unrest.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Ed Lane

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