Opposition leader in Syria to visit China
Updated: 2012-05-05 08:45
By Zhou Wa (China Daily)
Chinese leaders and the head of the opposition Syrian National Council, who will begin a visit to China on Sunday, will discuss whether the council can be involved in the peace plan brokered by UN envoy Kofi Annan, experts said on Friday.
China will hear the council's opinion of Annan's peace plan and explore whether the opposition can hold a dialogue with the Syrian government, said Gong Shaopeng, a professor of international politics at China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing.
The UN peace plan cannot achieve a practical and positive result until every party related to the Syrian issue is involved in the UN framework, said Zhang Xiaodong, an expert on Middle East studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
At the invitation of the Chinese People's Institute of Foreign Affairs, Burhan Ghalioun, head of the council, will hold talks with Chinese Foreign Ministry officials during his visit from Sunday to Wednesday, ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said at a routine news briefing on Friday.
When asked whether China had changed its position on the Syrian issue and its attitude toward the council, Liu said China's stance on the issue has been consistent.
China has always believed in safeguarding the purpose and principles of the UN Charter and the basic norms governing international relations, he said.
Liu added that China always advocates maintaining peace and stability in the Middle East and the fundamental interests of the Syrian people.
To promote dialogue and ease tensions in Syria, China has kept in contact with the Syrian government and opposition groups, and will continue to play a positive and constructive role in promoting a fair, peaceful and proper resolution of the Syrian issue, Liu said.
Gong said: "China realizes that Syrian opposition groups hold different ideas toward the UN peace plan, but we cannot overrate the practical influence of Ghalioun's visit on the situation in Syria. His group is not leading the fight against the government."
Zhang said: "Although Ghalioun's visit may only have limited influence, it is positive that the council would like to talk about the issue."
On Friday, at least four people were killed by Syrian security forces in the central provinces of Homs and Hama, where anti-government protests were set to take place, said Agence France-Presse.
UN spokesman Ahmad Fawzi was quoted by AFP as saying that "the Annan plan is on track and a crisis that has been going on for over a year is not going to be resolved in a day or a week".
"There are signs on the ground of movement, albeit slow and small," said Fawzi.
Nabil Elaraby, secretary-general of the Arab League, was scheduled to visit Shanghai and Beijing to hold discussions on the issue of Syria with Chinese leaders through Wednesday, Liu said.
Both sides will discuss methods for deepening strategic China-Arab relations, and conduct preparatory work for the upcoming Fifth Ministerial Meeting of the China-Arab Cooperation Forum, Liu said.
The influence of Elaraby's visit on the situation in Syria is limited because the Arab League's impact on the issue is not strong and the members within the league have not reached agreement, said Zhang.
Elaraby's visit will emphasize the ties and cooperation between China and Arab countries, Zhang added.
Agreeing with Zhang, Gong said there is a chance now for China and Arab countries to shape bilateral relations, especially following the societal changes that have taken place in Arab countries.
"China hopes the cooperation between China and Arab countries can continue, despite those changes in society," Gong said.