BEIJING, March 9 (Reuters) - China said on Friday it will send another envoy to the Middle East and to France to discuss the crisis in Syria, in a fresh bid to help staunch violence there that has divided China from Western and Arab powers.
Assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Ming will visit Saudi Arabia and Egypt on March 10-14 and then France on March 14-16, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told a daily news briefing.
Zhang will “exchange views on the Syria issue with the responsible people at the Arab League and other countries to push for a just and appropriate resolution” and then have “consultations” in France, Liu said.
The talks will focus on China’s statement issued over the weekend, he added, which warned other powers not to use humanitarian aid for Syria to “interfere” in the country while urging unity in the U.N. Security Council.
While Liu provided no other details, he did welcome the upcoming trip to Damascus by former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, the U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria.
“We hope that Mr Annan uses his wisdom and experience to push for all sides in Syria to end their violence and start the process of peace talks,” he said.
Annan said ahead of the visit that he would urge President Bashar al-Assad and his foes to stop fighting and seek a political solution, drawing angry rebukes from dissidents.
Zhang’s foray appears to be the latest effort to counter accusations that China, along with Russia, abetted expanding violence by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces by vetoing two UN resolutions aimed at pressuring him out of office.
Another Chinese envoy, former ambassador to Syria Li Huaxin, this week told Assad’s government and other parties to stop the violence and help the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross send aid to strife-hit areas.
China and other powers have met behind closed doors at the United Nations to discuss a new U.S.-drafted resolution urging an end to the crackdown on the revolt against Assad and unhindered humanitarian access.
As one of the U.N. Security Council’s five permanent members, China has the power to veto any resolutions, and it joined Russia to exercise that veto on Syrian measures in October and February.
The United Nations says Syrian security forces have killed more than 7,500 civilians since the revolt against the Assad family’s four decades in power began a year ago. (Reporting by Sabrina Mao and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)