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Annan seeks China's support for Syria plan

27 march 2012, 18:00
Syrian security forces walk through the destruction following two bombings. ©AFP
Syrian security forces walk through the destruction following two bombings. ©AFP
International envoy Kofi Annan will meet China's premier on Tuesday as he seeks Beijing's support for his proposal to end violence in strife-torn Syria, after winning Moscow's full backing, AFP reports.

Annan, the United Nations and Arab League envoy on Syria, will hold talks with Premier Wen Jiabao on the plan, which calls for a UN-supervised halt to fighting and pushes for a transition to a more representative political system.

China -- along with Russia -- drew international criticism earlier this year for blocking a UN Security Council resolution condemning Syria's protracted and deadly crackdown on protests.

But it has repeatedly called for an end to violence in Syria, and earlier this month backed a UN statement urging President Bashar al-Assad to work toward ceasing hostilities.

Beijing has also unveiled its own six-point plan, calling for an immediate end to the conflict -- which monitors say has left more than 9,000 dead since March 2011 -- and for dialogue between Assad's regime and the opposition.

Analysts say that while China agrees to political dialogue to help resolve the crisis, it opposes foreign military intervention or any attempt at regime change after Western efforts helped depose Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi.

The support of China and Russia is crucial for Annan's plan to move forward, since both are veto-wielding permanent members of the powerful UN Security Council.

China's foreign ministry said Monday that Beijing supported Annan's efforts to mediate the crisis, but it was unclear whether this meant full support for the envoy's plan or broad backing for his attempts.

"China values and supports the mediation efforts of Mr. Annan and hopes this visit will allow in-depth discussions on a political resolution of the Syrian issue," spokesman Hong Lei said.

He added China hopes for a "fair, peaceful and proper solution".

Analysts say Beijing may look carefully at Annan's plans for a Syrian-led democratic transition before giving a resounding go-ahead.

But they add that Annan's job has been made easier after Russia -- which like China is a Syria ally -- expressed full support for the envoy, who visited Moscow on Sunday.

During Annan's trip, Medvedev warned Syria that the international envoy represented the last chance for avoiding a civil war.

"China may see a window here... to jump in and exert more visible support for the Kofi Annan visit and the UN initiative," said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a politics professor at the Hong Kong Baptist University.

Annan's plan calls for the government to pull troops and heavy weapons out of protest cities, a daily two-hour humanitarian pause to hostilities and access to all areas affected by the fighting.

It also calls for the release of people detained in the uprising. However, it imposes no deadline for Assad to carry out these demands, nor does it call for his resignation.

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