China announced new proposals on Wednesday to quell 20-month-old violence in Syria, according to its state news agency, but stopped short of supporting Western calls for intervention.
U.N. and Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi met with Chinese officials after the four-day Eid truce he negotiated last week promptly dissolved into more fighting between the Syrian military and rebel forces. The U.S., Britain and France have previously warned the Assad regime of military action, but Russia and China have so far stymied any U.N. Security Council initiatives, including sanctions.
Wednesday's announcement signals no real shift in China's willingness to back peace negotiations, a U.S. State Department official tells US News, adding it provides no leverage, such as consequences for noncompliance, for Brahimi or anyone else to end the violence.
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi acknowledged the situation in Syria has worsened and called on the international community on Wednesday to support humanitarian and peace efforts, Xinhuanet.com reports. He added, "a political resolution is the only pragmatic option in Syria."
Brahimi said before meeting with the Chinese that he hoped they would "play an active role in solving the events in Syria," reports BBC News.
China's newest proposal includes four main points:
- The Syrian government and rebel fighters should make every effort to maintain a ceasefire and work with Brahimi's mediation efforts;
- Both sides should appoint interlocutors who can negotiate a political transition and maintain governmental stability;
- The international community should increase support for Brahimi's efforts and other mediation initiatives, such as "relevant Security Council resolutions";
- The international community should increase humanitarian assistance to conflict regions in Syria.
The council had authorized a temporary "advance team" in April to monitor the growing crisis in Syria, but has fallen short of agreeing on any other intervention.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the U.N. Security Council in September it was "paralyzed" by Russian and Chinese vetoes, despite Assad's "campaign of brutality (that) has sparked a humanitarian crisis."
Hours after the end of what was supposed to be a four-day truce in Syria this weekend, bombs from military jets continued to pound major cities such as Damascus, adding to a death toll that by some accounts has exceeded 500 during one of the holiest Muslim holidays.
Activists report 23 were killed by Syrian air and tank strikes on Tuesday in Douma, a suburb outside the Syrian capital, including at least five rebel fighters. Syrian state television reported on Tuesday that air force commander Gen. Abdullah Mahmud al-Khalidi was killed in Damascus by rebel groups, according to a New York Times report.
More than 32,000 have been killed since the fighting began, according to the Center For Documentation of Violations in Syria.
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Paul D. Shinkman is a national security reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Corrected 10/31/2012: A previous version of this story included a paragraph stating the U.S. State Department and U.S. Mission to the U.N. did not respond in time for this story. They did comment.