BEIJING – A visiting Syrian government envoy praised China and Russia for not acting like "colonizers" in their response to her country's 18-month conflict, as the regime reached out to Beijing for support while it deals with major defections.
The state-run China Daily newspaper on Thursday quoted Bouthaina Shaaban as saying Syria will not share the same fate as Libya, where NATO-led airstrikes helped topple dictator Moammar Gadhafi's regime last year. Shaaban is political and media adviser to President Bashar Assad.
"We're happy to see countries like China and Russia, who are not colonizers or deal with people as colonizers," Shaaban told the newspaper, calling it "a very different stance from the West."
China and Russia have repeatedly used their veto power at the U.N. Security Council to block strong Western- and Arab-backed action against Assad. Moscow is a key ally of Assad, and China cites its own stance against military intervention.
Shaaban met with Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on Thursday. She later told reporters at her hotel that the meeting was "really great" and that both sides had agreed on "many things."
Yang reiterated calls for both sides in Syria to implement a six-point plan by U.N. peace envoy Kofi Annan to end the fighting that has killed an estimated 20,000 people over the last 18 months. Annan is resigning at the end of the month due to his failure to achieve even a temporary cease-fire in the civil war.
"Syria needs to take real measures to satisfy the reasonable demands of the people for change and to defend their personal interests," Yang was quoted as saying on the Foreign Ministry's website. It said he also discussed China's contacts with the Syrian opposition and the humanitarian aid it has supplied to refugees fleeing the violence.
Shaaban said her visit was intended to give "the Chinese leadership a real picture of what's going on in Syria," the China Daily report said. She said sanctions by the West were hurting the lives of ordinary Syrians and the West was worsening the situation by "supporting with arms and money people who are inciting the civil war in Syria."
China felt burned after abstaining on a U.N. vote supporting no-fly zones in Libya, accusing NATO of overstepping the resolution's mandate and vowing to block any similar measures in future.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Monday that China was also considering inviting Syrian opposition groups.
There have been several high-profile defections from the Syrian government side recently, including former Prime Minister Riad Hijab.