Syria pledges to respect Annan's peace plan in full: China

AFP , Wednesday 18 Apr 2012

China's foreign minister says that he received assurances from the Syrian regime that it will fully cooperate with the UN envoy Kofi Anana

China said Wednesday Syria's foreign minister had pledged to respect UN envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan and cooperate with a UN team sent to monitor a fragile ceasefire in the restive state.

Walid Muallem's comments to his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi come after fresh violence was reported in Syria -- where over 9,000 people have died in the past 13 months of fighting -- despite the ceasefire that began last week.

"Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem... said Syria would continue to... respect and implement Annan's 'six-point proposal'," China's foreign ministry quoted Muallem as telling Yang in Beijing.

Muallem also said Damascus remained committed to implementing the ceasefire, withdrawing troops and cooperating with UN observers, it added.

The foreign minister is on a short visit to China aimed at briefing Beijing on his nation's latest efforts to implement Annan's six-point peace proposal, which came into force Thursday and includes the ceasefire and troop withdrawal.

A UN team has arrived in the restive nation to monitor the ceasefire, but diplomats say negotiations between Damascus and the advance six-member party have become deadlocked over whether they can operate across the whole country.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said the United States is still "hoping for the best" but is discussing with other powers what to do in the event the peace plan collapses.

She has also called on Damascus to honour Annan's plan in full, pointing out that the proposal also means allowing peaceful demonstrations, releasing political prisoners and allowing a peaceful political transition to begin.

Yang told Muallem he hoped Syria would cooperate with Annan's mediation work, as well as the UN observer mission, according to the ministry.

Opposition groups in Syria have accused the regime of violating the ceasefire, and the Syrian National Council says the government is still carrying out "massacres."

However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has pointed the finger at the opposition -- 11 of 35 people killed in violence on Monday were soldiers -- and urged the rebels' foreign supporters to press them to honour the truce.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has said "stronger sanctions" against Damascus must be adopted to "pressure the Syrian regime" and erode its resources.

Juppe has invited several of his fellow foreign ministers to talks in Paris on Thursday on ways to boost the pressure on Syria, a government source said.

China has consistently backed Annan's efforts to bring peace to Syria, after he visited Beijing last month.

Beijing, an ally of Damascus, previously drew international criticism for vetoing two UN Security Council resolutions on the Syria crisis which were critical of President Bashar al-Assad.

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