Syria crisis: China sends senior envoy

China says it is sending a senior envoy to Syria in a bid to find a peaceful resolution to the country’s crisis.

Syrian army tanks at the entrance to the Baba Amr neighbourhood in Homs (AFP)

Deputy Foreign Minister Zhai Jun will go to the capital, Damascus, on Friday.

China was widely criticised for vetoing a UN Security Council resolution urging Syria’s leader to step down.

The UN General Assembly will vote later on an Arab-sponsored resolution condemning the Syrian government. Rights groups say some 7,000 civilians have been killed there since March.

The resolution also backs an Arab League plan calling for President Bashar al-Assad to hand power to his vice-president.

The measure cannot be vetoed in the assembly, but the resolution would be non-binding.

Ahead of the vote, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on Syrian authorities to stop killing civilians, and said crimes against humanity might be taking place in the country.

“We see neighbourhoods shelled indiscriminately, hospitals used as torture centres, children as young as 10 years old killed and abused. We see almost a certain crimes against humanity,” he told reporters during a visit to Austria.

Violence condemned
In Beijing, Mr Zhai said that China does not approve of armed intervention or forcing so-called “regime change” in Syria.

In an interview posted on the Chinese foreign ministry website, he condemned violence against civilians and called for the government to respect the people’s “legitimate” desire for reform.

He also said sanctions or the threat of sanctions “are not conducive to the appropriate resolution of this issue”.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman would not say if Mr Zhai would also meet Syrian opposition representatives during the two-day visit.

“I believe the message of this visit is that China hopes for a peaceful and proper resolution of the Syrian situation, and that the Chinese side will play a constructive role in the mediation,” spokesman Liu Weimin said.

Last week, Mr Zhai met a Syrian opposition delegation in Beijing.

In Syria itself, government forces are reported to have launched a new attack on the town of Deraa in the south of the country, where the rebellion first started in March last year.

There are also reports of violence on the eastern border with Iraq, and in Kfar Nabuda in the central Hama province, where a number of rebel soldiers are reported to have been killed, along with several civilians.

Activists say at least 20 people were killed across the country on Thursday.

There are also reports of more shelling by government forces in Homs, which has along with Hama been hit by major government offensives.

Source: BBC

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