China sending envoy on Syria to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, France

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BEIJING: China said Friday it is sending an envoy to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and France to explain its position on Syria, after Beijing called for an end to the year-long conflict in the Middle East country.

China unveiled a six-point peace plan last Sunday, calling for an immediate end to the bloody violence and for dialogue between the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad and the opposition.

Foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said the visit by Assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Ming would “increase communication and consultations with parties concerned over the political resolution of the Syrian crisis.”

It was hoped the talks with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and France would “build up consensus and push for a fair, peaceful and proper solution of the Syrian issue,” Liu told a regular briefing.

Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said Wednesday that Damascus was ready to cooperate with Beijing’s six-point plan after meeting Chinese envoy Li Huaxin, the country’s former ambassador to Damascus.

Damascus was also ready to “cooperate with the envoy of the United Nations” and the Arab League, former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, who is due in Syria on Saturday, Muallem said.

Syria’s main opposition alliance has previously ruled out talks while Assad remains in power.

Beijing’s proposal rejects foreign interference or “external action for regime change” in Syria but supports the role of the UN Security Council “in strict accordance with the purposes and principles of the UN Charter.”

Liu said Friday China supported Annan’s “constructive role for the political resolution of the crisis” through “impartial mediation.”

China and Russia have been widely criticized for vetoing two UN Security Council resolutions condemning Syria’s bloody crackdown on 12 months of anti-regime protests.

A Britain-based monitoring group said on Wednesday that the death toll since the protests erupted last March had topped 8,400.

But in the past week Russia and China have been stepping up efforts to find a peaceful solution to the crisis as Damascus refuses aid workers access to a battered rebel district.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday he was preparing for a meeting on Saturday in Cairo with his Arab counterparts to discuss its ally Syria due to the “urgency” of the crisis.

In its six-point plan, China said it was also ready to support international aid under the auspices of the United Nations or another “impartial” organization.

The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society have sought in vain permission to enter Baba Amr, where hundreds of people are reported to have been killed and even more wounded.

On Wednesday UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos saw a “completely devastated” Baba Amr district of Homs during a brief but tense visit to the Syrian protest city, her spokeswoman said.

However Amos was stopped from going into areas of Homs still held by the opposition, despite receiving assurances from Muallem in earlier talks that she could go to any part of the country, her spokeswoman Amanda Pitt told AFP.

“She says that the parts they saw were completely devastated,” Pitt said. “She said Homs feels like a city that has been completely closed down.”

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