Fri, Feb 17, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Beijing sending vice president to Syria

‘EXTREMELY FRAIL’:The ‘People’s Daily’ said that if the conflict spread, it would be catastrophic, and that the US wanted to replace Syria’s government with a friendly one

Reuters, BEIJING

China yesterday said it would send a senior diplomat to Syria as it steps up efforts to mediate in the Syrian crisis after being scolded by the West and many in the Arab world for vetoing a UN resolution calling for Syria’s president to step down.

China and Russia this month blocked a draft UN Security Council resolution backing an Arab plan urging President Bashar al-Assad to give up power after 11 months of bloodshed between Syrian forces and protesters demanding reform.

China said it was simply trying to prevent more violence and was acting in accordance with the UN charter, but it later sent two junior envoys to the Middle East to explain its position and was now sending a more senior diplomat.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun (翟俊) will travel to Syria today and tomorrow, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Liu Weimin (劉為民) told a regular briefing.

“The details of the trip are still being arranged. The message is that China hopes to push for a peaceful, appropriate resolution to the Syria crisis,” Liu said.

“China is willing to continue playing a constructive, mediation role in resolving the crisis,” he said, without providing further details.

He did not say if Zhai would also meet Syrian opposition representatives. Zhai met a Syrian opposition delegation in Beijing last week.

The trip comes days after China warned that Western powers should tread carefully at the UNs in dealing with Syria, or risk worsening violence.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) vowed this week to work through the UN to seek an end to the strife.

Zhai’s trip follows one by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who days after the veto traveled to Damascus as the US shut its embassy and European countries recalled their envoys.

Meanwhile, meddling in Syria by foreign powers risks stirring up a hornets’ nest of bloodshed and instability in the Middle East that could shock markets and derail the weak global economy, a commentary in the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist, said yesterday.

“The political ecology in the Middle East is extremely frail, a tangled mess of thousands of years of ethnic and religious conflict,” the paper said.

World powers must realize this and handle bloodshed in Syria and Middle East tensions with a sense of realism, the paper said, saying that the spread of conflict would be a “catastrophe” in a crucial phase of global economic recovery.

“The Middle East is the world’s most important fuel depot. If gripped by chaos, oil prices would skyrocket, shocking the stock market, financial systems and economies,” the paper said.

A weak political equilibrium in the region has emerged, but if broken, all manner of latent problems will emerge, which no single superpower can control, the paper said.

The author used the pen name “Zhong Sheng,” which can mean “voice of China” and is often used to give Beijing’s position on foreign policy.

The People’s Daily said Washington’s aim was to establish a friendly government in Syria to counter the influence of its “old enemy” in the region, Iran.

“Once Syria sets up a pro-Western regime, Iran will loose important backing in the region,” the commentary said.

Al-Assad on Wednesday promised a referendum in two weeks on a new constitution leading to elections within 90 days, but made clear he was still intent on crushing the uprising with tanks and troops.

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