China yesterday said it believed a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis was still possible as any armed intervention would only spread turmoil through the region, but Britain’s foreign minister said he feared Syria will slide into civil war.
The comments came as Egypt yesterday said it was withdrawing its ambassador to Syria.
China’s comments were published by Xinhua news agency a day after a Chinese envoy met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and thousands demonstrated in the heart of Damascus in one of the biggest anti-government rallies in the country since an uprising started almost a year ago.
A leading Syrian businessman said the al-Assad government was slowly disintegrating and might only last another six months.
China has emerged as a leading player in the multiple international efforts to end the bloodshed in Syria and is sympathetic to al-Assad.
“China believes, as many others do, there is still hope the Syria crisis can be resolved through peaceful dialogue between the opposition and the government, contrary to some Western countries’ argument that time is running out for talks in Syria,” Xinhua said.
It also criticized the West’s stance on Syria, highlighting differences between foreign powers over how to deal with the conflict.
The West has ruled out any Libya-style military intervention, but the Arab League, spearheaded by Saudi Arabia, has indicated some of its member states were prepared to arm the opposition, which includes the rebel Free Syrian Army.
British Foreign Minister William Hague reiterated that view on Sunday, telling the BBC: “We cannot intervene in the way we did in Libya ... we will do many other things.”
“I am worried that Syria is going to slide into a civil war and that our powers to do something about it are very constrained because, as everyone has seen, we have not been able to pass a resolution at the UN Security Council because of Russian and Chinese opposition,” Hague said.
A leading Syrian businessman, Faisal al-Qudsi, said the government was slowly disintegrating and foreign sanctions were ruining the economy.
Qudsi told the BBC in London that military action could only last six months, but al-Assad’s government would fight to the end.
“The army is getting tired and will go nowhere,” he said. “They will have to sit and talk or at least they have to stop killing. And the minute they stop killing, more millions of people will be on the streets. So they are in a Catch-22.”
Qudsi, who was involved in Syria’s economic liberalization, told the BBC the apparatus of government was almost non-existent in trouble spots like Homs, Idlib and Deraa.
Meanwhile, Egypt became the latest Arab country to scale back its relations with the embattled regime in Damascus.
Egypt’s decision follows moves by Tunisia, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations to reduce ties with Damascus.