Tunisian president urges China to pressure Damascus regime
HAMMAMET, Tunisia (AFP) - Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki and envoys from several Arab countries on Thursday urged China to put pressure on Syria to end the slaughter of civilians there.
Marzouki was speaking at a Sino-Arab forum at Hammamet, in eastern Tunisia, attended by the head of the Arab League, foreign ministers from more than a dozen Arab states and China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.
"Tunisia considers that China can play a decisive role to end the suffering of the Syrian people and prevent foreign military intervention," said Marzouki.
Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi called for an "immediate halt to the crimes against civilians" in Syria and for support for the UN-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan.
Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Sabah called on China to "put pressure on the Syrian government to stop the violence and the massacres and respect its commitments regarding the Annan plan."
Annan's plan for ending bloodshed in Syria includes a ceasefire that should have taken effect on April 12 but has been violated daily.
Yang said: "The Middle East is currently going through profound changes and China respects and supports the right of Arab countries to handle their internal affairs in an independent way, as well as the Arab people's call for reform and development."
Without mentioning Syria specifically, he urged all parties involved to work towards "global and peaceful solutions."
From Beijing, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said Thursday that a resolution of the Syria conflict needed more time and urged support and patience for the peace plan being mediated by Annan.
With Russian and Chinese support, the UN Security Council on Sunday strongly condemned the Syrian government for using artillery in a massacre in the central town of Houla in which at least 108 people were killed.
But on Wednesday, China said it opposed military intervention in the Syrian issue and regime change by force. Russia has also refused to support stronger action against President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
More than 13,000 people have been killed in Syria since an anti-regime uprising broke out in March last year, and Assad launched a fierce crackdown on dissent.