Beijing calls for Syria political transition

Updated: 2013-02-07 02:21

By Qin Zhongwei (China Daily)

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Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi called for all parties in the Syrian conflict to start a political dialogue as early as possible and push for a political transition, saying the situation has reached a "crucial stage".

Yang met with Syrian Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Faisal al-Makdad in Beijing on Wednesday.

All parties should implement the Geneva Communique passed at the meeting of the Action Group on Syria on June 30 and finalize concrete steps to realize it, Yang said.

He added that China will be positive and open to any proposed solutions acceptable to all Syrian parties.

On Tuesday, Chinese Ambassador to Egypt Song Aiguo met with Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces Chairman Ahmed Moaz Al-Khatib in Cairo.

He said that China has noticed Al-Khatib's recent diplomatic activities for resolving the Syrian issue through political means and hopes that all Syrian parties will soon launch inclusive political dialogues and reach a solution through patient and thorough negotiations and consultations on an equal footing.

Al-Khatib, head of the main opposition in exile and newly elected head of the Syrian National Coalition, called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday to give Vice-President Farouk al-Sharaa the task of opening negotiations when talking with senior Russian, US and Iranian officials.

Al-Khatib echoed his announcement last week that he was prepared to talk to Assad's representatives on condition that detainees were released and travel documents renewed for the opposition abroad.

His recent remarks broke the continued insistence of opposition groups that there could be no dialogue or contact with Assad's government without the president's departure, said Li Guofu, an expert on Middle East studies at the China Institute of International Relations.

"The Syrian people have become tired of the nearly two-year war and long for peace and stability, which also forces the opposition to adjust their strategy to win their hearts," Li said.

The change also reflects the will of Western powers behind them, because countries such as the US are hesitant to intervene directly as they did in Libya, Li added. They are also worried about the growing extreme organizations that would further threaten Western interests in the region. "When the US stance changed, we saw a change in the rhetoric of the opposition," said Bassam Abu Abdullah, an international law professor at Damascus University.

Analyzing the change in the US stance, Abu Abdullah contended that Washington has come to a conclusion that there are no prospects for the current opposition, with armed groups on the ground overwhelmed by foreign jihadists and radicals.

"There is an understanding between the United States and Russia, and the Obama administration cannot take more risks with the growing presence of armed radicals," Abu Abdullah said.

The recent meetings between al-Khatib and the foreign ministers of Russia and Iran, which were interpreted as opening a window to a possible breakthrough in efforts to bring an end to Syria's civil war, also puts pressure on Assad to see how he would react, as both Iran and Russia were considered his strong supporters, analysts said.

In another development, US President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit Israel, the West Bank and Jordan in spring. Developments in the region, such as in Syria and Iran, will also be a focus of his agenda.

Xinhua contributed to this story.