China backs "transition" in Syria
China backs a "political transition" in Syria to end worsening bloodshed after 18 months of unrest, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said on Wednesday while repeating Beijing's opposition to forceful foreign intervention in the crisis.
Yang gave no details of what he meant by a transition in Syria, where the government of President Bashar al-Assad has been beset by growing opposition and armed rebellion. Russia has also offered broad support for such a transition.
"We support a period of political transition in Syria," Yang said at a news conference after talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
"But we also believe that any solution should come from the people of Syria and reflect their wishes," he said. "It should not be imposed from outside."
Lakhdar Brahimi, the new United Nations-Arab League mediator on Syria, has described his bid to broker peace there as "nearly impossible" but Yang stuck to a more hopeful message.
"I said in a phone call (to Brahimi) that China fully supports his mediation efforts and we hope all the parties will also support his mediation efforts so there can be an appropriate and peaceful solution to the situation in Syria," Yang said.
"On the question of Syria, let me emphasize that China is not partial to any individual or any party," he said.
"We hope that members of the international community will bring their positive influence to bear and get the various parties in Syria to adopt a realistic, calm and constructive attitude so that there can be an early beginning of political dialogue and transition."
Western governments, including the United States, have sought to gain the support of China and Russia in pushing Assad from power.
The UN General Assembly last month overwhelmingly approved a non-binding resolution expressing "grave concern" at the escalation of violence and condemned the UN Security Council for its failure to take strong action.
China and Russia have vetoed three Western-backed Security Council resolutions that sought tougher action against Assad.
Beijing and Moscow have sparred with Western powers over how to tackle the crisis, with all sides accusing the other of fueling the conflict by backing local proxies. A council meeting on the crisis on Thursday achieved nothing new.
Yang said China stood by a principle of non-intervention in the affairs of other countries.
Clinton acknowledged that it is "no secret" the US government is disappointed by the positions of China and Russia on Syria, and reiterated that the best course of action remains tough UN Security Council action.
"We hope to continue to unite behind a real path forward to end the violence in Syria," Clinton said.
Meanwhile, she said, the United States would work with like-minded countries to plan for the day when Assad leaves power, "because we are convinced that he will".
The US is said to be actively supporting Syrian rebels, but has withheld from supplying lethal weapons for fear that they may fall into the hands of al-Qaeda linked Islamist insurgents.