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Syria accepts UN peace plan

Protests against the Syrian regime of President Bashar Assad after midday prayers. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Hasan Jamali.

Joint envoy of the United Nations and Arab League Kofi Annan met with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Tuesday and said that Syria supports a six-point peace proposal.

The two men met on the first of a two-day visit in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People where they shook hands before sitting down for a meeting.

Annan visited China after the Russian leg of a trip designed to shore up support for his peace mission from the two nations that have been Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s strongest backers in a year of bloodshed.

“(We) totally believe that under your mediation, the Syrian issue will see some further progress and finally be solved in an impartial, peaceful and proper manner,” Wen told Annan.

“I am happy that today we are working also very closely and in friendship over this important Syrian issue,” Annan told Wen.

Russia and China have shielded Assad from U.N. Security Council condemnation by vetoing two Western-backed resolutions over the bloodshed.

The United Nations says government forces have killed more than 8,000 people.

However, both countries approved a non-binding Security Council statement last week endorsing Annan’s mission, and Russia has lately criticised the Syrian government’s handling of the crisis.

Following meetings with Wen, Annan said he had China’s support, and that he had told China that Syria had accepted a six-point peace proposal calling for a cease-fire and humanitarian aid.

“We’ve had very good discussions about the situation in Syria, and they have offered me their full support. They’re going to work with me and the other members of the council to ensure that the six-point plan is implemented, and I indicated that I had received a response from the Syrian government and will be making it public today, which is positive. And we hope to translate it into action,” he said.

“I had a six point plan which the Security Council has endorsed, dealing with issues of political discussions,   withdrawal of heavy weapons and troops and populations centres; humanitarian assistance being allowed in   unimpeded; release of prisoners; freedom of movement, and access for journalists to go in and out, so we will need tosee how we move ahead and implement this agreement that they have accepted,” he added. 

In a news briefing on Tuesday afternoon, before Annan met Wen, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters that China supported the former U.N. Secretary General’s efforts for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

“China supports the political mediating efforts that Mr. Annan makes to help solve the Syrian crisis. China is willing to have in-depth communication with him as to how to solve the Syrian political crisis during his visit. We also hope that all sides involved in Syria will cooperate with Mr. Annan’s mediating efforts, creating conditions for political solutions to the Syrian crisis,” Hong said.

Syria’s fractious opposition groups had begun reconciliation talks in Istanbul on Tuesday aimed at demonstrating they can provide a coherent and effective alternative to President Bashar al-Assad.