Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- The Chinese government has held intensive Beijing-based bilateral meetings with the Syrian opposition, as revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat by China’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Li Chengwen.
The Chinese envoy stressed that the Syrian opposition lacks cohesion and in his estimation rejects any “foreign intervention with support for political reform away from violence.”
Ambassador Chengwen stressed that China – through its envoys – has been urging the Syrian Government to stop the violence against civilians and to initiate the process of peace and political reform. Li Chengwen also stated that China has been calling on the Syrian regime to cooperate with the Arab League in order to find an Arab solution, and to offer humanitarian aid as soon as possible.
The Chinese envoy explained that his country’s stance does not mean that it is supporting or embracing the current Syrian regime, or indeed taking its side, but such a stance has been adopted in order to avoid complicating the situation further, and to stop the bloodshed, thus opening the door for political dialogue. The ambassador pointed out that China continues to look for joint solutions in an attempt to ease the tension; however at the same time pressure should not be exerted on one party alone – as he says – but should be exerted on all sides.
Ambassador Chengwen described the situation in Syria as complex and sensitive and called for rationality and joint action to stop the violence, via the promotion of a political solution. Chengwen stressed the need to respect Syria’s national sovereignty and its opposition to regime change from abroad, in addition to any form of military intervention and the efforts of the Arab League to offer humanitarian aid.
The Chinese ambassador expresses his country’s concerns over the escalation of violence and killings in Syria, and called on the international community to exert pressure on all parties concerned inside and outside Syria in order to find a political solution.
Chengwen added that all sides should prioritize peace as “there is still scope and an opportunity for joint efforts to achieve peace in order to avoid more bloodshed and military intervention in Syria.”
With regards to the Arab League proposal to send joint Arab-international peacekeeping forces, the Chinese ambassador explained that so far there have been no additional consultations or tangible efforts to this effect. Ambassador Chengwen pointed out that this proposal needs further consultations in order to advice, along with the provision of certain conditions by the United Nations, most notably the agreement of Syria to such a proposal.
As for the Chinese stance toward introducing international peacekeeping forces, Li Chengwen stressed that China will support any step or measure that improves the situation in Syria. The ambassador stressed – in his words – that China “neither rejects nor supports” the idea of peacekeeping forces, and is currently studying the idea and measures proposed.
With regards to repeating the Yemeni experience in Syria with Bashar al-Assad handing over power to his vice president, Ambassador Chengwen said that Yemeni national reconciliation, which has taken place as a result of sizeable Arab and Gulf efforts, especially on the part of Saudi Arabia, was due to an agreement on both sides. The ambassador urged that differences in the domestic conditions of each country must be taken into account.
According to Ambassador Chengwen, if the aims of a power transfer in Syria were to ease the tension and violence and promote a more positive step, then this would be acceptable. The ambassador stressed that the more the bloodshed in Syria increases, the more complicated the Syrian issue will become. He expressed hope that greater internal efforts would be exerted in Syria, in addition to international cooperation, in order to push forward the peace process.
Ambassador Chengwen revealed that the Arab League has offered the Syrian regime a multitude of advice, including the suggestion that the President delegate his powers to his deputy, but Bashar al-Assad, as the ambassador says, is free to follow or disregard such advice; and a change of regime should not be imposed by force.
The Chinese ambassador justified the stance adopted by his country at the latest meeting on human rights by stating that protecting the human rights of the Syrian people would only be accomplished by stopping the violence, especially against civilians. Only this can help to restore stability. Chengwen considers this to be a prior and fundamental condition for ensuring human rights for the Syrians. According to the ambassador, the policy of exerting pressure on a particular party is not beneficial when it comes to easing tension or protecting human rights. He called on the Human Rights Council to work in a fair and objective way, and not to be “biased” or arbitrary.
Regarding the bilateral (Chinese-Syrian) arms deals, Li Chengwen said that military exchanges between the two countries began many years ago, and are compatible with international regulations. The trade was established within the framework of defending the sovereignty and unity of the Syrian state, not providing arms for use against the people. Besides, the ambassador pointed out that although military exchanges with the Syrian regime still exist, they are very small in number.
The Chinese ambassador added that China would stand against any further proposals to arm the government or the opposition, or anything that encourages domestic chaos; stressing “China will not support this.”
With regards to China offering humanitarian aid to the population in Syria, Li Chengwen stressed that there has been no specific Chinese resolution on this issue. He pointed out that his country would take a decision according to the developments of the situation, and the need for such aid.