BEJING, China – China on Monday condemned the “cruel killings” of civilians in the Syrian town of Houla, while insisting that peace mediator Kofi Annan’s efforts remained the most viable way to end the violence in Syria.
The comments from the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin marked an intensification of Beijing’s condemnation of the surging bloodshed in Syria, but Liu stopped short of directly condemning the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
“China feels deeply shocked by the large number of civilian casualties in Houla, and condemns in the strongest terms the cruel killings of ordinary citizens, especially women and children,” Liu told a daily news briefing.
“This incident again demonstrates that an immediate cessation of violence in Syria can brook no delay,” Liu added.
“We call on all sides concerned in Syria to implement the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and Annan’s six-point proposal immediately, comprehensively and thoroughly.”
Premier Wen Jiabao told visiting Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim al-Thani that the world should seek a peaceful solution to the crisis in Syria.
“The international community should step up support for the envoy Annan’s mediation and monitoring team’s work, and insist on peacefully defusing the crisis through political channels,” state media quoted Wen as saying.
The United Nations believes that at least 108 people were killed in Houla, U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said.
Western and Arab governments opposed to Syrian President Assad put the blame for the deaths squarely on his government, but Damascus has rejected the charge.
Beijing and Moscow have both previously vetoed two Security Council resolutions calling for tougher action against Damascus, while stressing hopes for a political solution brokered by Kofi Annan, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations.
China has voiced fears that more forceful international intervention in Syria could worsen the violence, or open the way for Western-led “regime change” there.
The Chinese spokesman Liu stressed Beijing believed Annan’s efforts remained the best hope for stopping the violence.
“Annan’s mediation efforts and six-point proposal are a practical avenue and an important route for reducing the tensions in Syria and promoting a political solution there,” said Liu when asked whether China believed an alternative approach was needed.
“We also hope that all sides will continue to play a positive role in order to implement Annan’s six-point proposal.”