Thu, Nov 01, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Syrian fighting continues, peace envoy visits Beijing

DIPLOMACY:Lakhdar Brahimi met Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi yesterday and urged Beijing to play an ‘active role’ in helping end the Syrian crisis

AFP, DAMASCUS and BEIJING

UN and Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, left, shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi yesterday prior to their meeting in Beijing, China.

Photo: EPA

Syrian warplanes pounded rebel bastions yesterday after a day of fighting that left more than 180 dead, as UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi urged China to help end the violence.

In a week that has seen unprecedented air strikes, regime fighter jets yesterday again pummeled rebel-controlled areas east of Damascus where fighting has raged for months.

At least five raids were carried out early yesterday in the capital’s eastern suburbs, where 30 civilians, including five children, were killed in air raids and fighting on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The violence killed 182 people across Syria on Tuesday, the Britain-based Observatory said.

Analysts say the regime has boosted air strikes in recent days in a bid to reverse opposition gains on the ground, especially in Syria’s north, and to prevent the rebels from taking control of further territory around the capital.

Fierce clashes also erupted yesterday in the northwestern province of Idlib, where rebels attacked highway military checkpoints and battles raged over the rebel-held village of Maaret al-Numan and the regime-controlled Wadi Daif army base.

Rebels also claimed responsibility for the killing of a senior air force general, Abdullah Mahmud al-Khalidi, whom state television said had been assassinated by “terrorists.”

Visiting Beijing, Brahimi yesterday said he hoped China would play an active role in helping end the violence in Syria as he met Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi (楊潔篪) for talks.

Greeting Yang at the foreign ministry in front of reporters, Brahimi said he hoped “China can play an active role in solving the events in Syria,” but did not elaborate.

China is generally suspicious of intervention in the internal affairs of other nations.

Both China and Russia have exercised their veto in the UN Security Council to block resolutions aimed at putting more pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Yang thanked Brahimi for his work and said he hoped their discussions — their third in two months — would promote “mutual understanding” and “the appropriate handling of the Syrian issue.” China’s foreign ministry did not reveal the content of the talks, but reiterated that Beijing would push for a “political resolution in Syria.”

“China has been playing an important and positive role in pushing for the political resolution to the Syrian issue and will continue to work with the international community,” ministry spokesman Hong Lei (洪磊) said.

Yang also met the Syrian president’s envoy in August and an opposition delegation the next month, both times stressing the need for dialogue, according to the foreign ministry’s Web site.

He warned the opposition about outside forces directing any political transition, while he told the president’s envoy that both sides in the conflict should work with international mediation efforts.

Michael Stephens, a Royal United Services Institute analyst based in Qatar, said China has eased its backing of al-Assad during the course of the conflict.

“There was a more overt support for Assad which has now changed to trying to find a solution,” he said. “They’ve condemned violence on both sides and as a result ... it doesn’t allow them leverage on either side.”

Brahimi is due to present new proposals for resolving the Syria conflict to the UN Security Council next month.

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