China seeks amends with Arab League after Syria veto

A Chinese envoy has met the head of the Arab League to discuss Syria, as Beijing seeks to limit the diplomatic damage from its veto of a UN resolution on the country which has ignited Western and Arab anger.

China, along with Russia, early this month blocked a draft UN Security Council resolution that backed an Arab plan urging Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad to quit amid his government’s violent crackdown on opposition groups.

The foreign ministry on Tuesday said its envoy Li Huaxin had an “extremely frank and useful” exchange on Syria on Monday when he met Arab League secretary general Nabil Elaraby in Cairo.

China has insisted its veto did not amount to supporting Assad and was only taken to try and prevent the situation worsening.

But Elaraby has previously said that the veto had cost China and Russia diplomatic credit in the Arab world, and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah called the veto an “unfavourable” move.

In Libya, protesters hurled rocks at the Chinese embassy.

“China and Arab countries have a very traditional friendship and cooperative relationship, and maintain close communication and coordination on political affairs,” Li said, according to the foreign ministry statement on its website.

“Given the constantly escalating Syrian situation, the purpose of this visit to Cairo was to explain China’s position and policies to the Arab League and Arab countries, and listen to their opinions,” Li said.

Syria’s uprising, in which the United Nations says more than 5 400 people have been killed, has become one of the bloodiest of the Arab Spring revolts sweeping the region since the end of 2010.

China’s foreign ministry said on Monday in Beijing that it backed Arab League mediation in Syria but offered no clear sign of support for its call to send in peacekeepers to halt the Syrian government’s violent crackdown on opposition groups.

The Arab League on Sunday passed a resolution asking the UN Security Council to authorise a joint UN-Arab peacekeeping mission to Syria.

That call has added diplomatic pressure on Russia and China, both heavily criticised by the West for its earlier veto.

Syria is likely to feature in talks when China’s Vice-President Xi Jinping visits the White House on Tuesday.

China’s top diplomat Dai Bingguo defended Beijing’s handling of the Syrian crisis in a phone call with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday ahead of Xi’s trip, saying the Syrian problem is essentially an internal one.

Syrian troops resumed their bombardment of districts in Homs on Tuesday, marking the 10th day of shelling and sniper fire in the Syrian city at the centre of the violence. — Reuters

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