8 Jun 2012

China calls for end to violence in Syria

9:33 pm on 8 June 2012

China has called for both sides in Syria to halt the violence and implement envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan in the face of rising calls to back tougher action against President Bashar al-Assad's government.

On Friday, China's Foreign Ministry said the country strongly condemns the deaths of innocent civilians and calls for the perpetrators to be punished, Reuters reports.

It says developments in Syria make Mr Annan's efforts more, not less, important.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the latest massacre and told a Security Council briefing that a full-blown civil war in Syria is imminent.

Activists say government-backed militias killed 78 people in Qubair village on Wednesday. The government says terrorists killed nine people. Two weeks ago, 108 people including dozens of children were killed in Houla, sparking international outrage.

China has repeatedly said it opposes external intervention in Syria. But Mr Ban said it was time to step up the pressure on Damascus to halt the violence.

The United Nations has 297 unarmed observers in Syria to verify the implementation of a ceasefire meant to have taken effect in mid-April, but Mr Ban says there is little evidence the Syrian government is complying with Mr Annan's peace plan, the BBC reports.

Mr Ban told the Security Council briefing that heavy weapons, armour-piercing bullets and surveillance drones have been used against UN observers in Syria to hamper efforts to monitor the conflict.

Diplomats quoted Mr Ban as saying these tactics were used to try to force them to withdraw from areas where government forces have been accused of staging attacks.

Kofi Annan, a special envoy for the UN and Arab League, expressed his horror of the killings in Qubair, saying those responsible must be held to account.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Bashar al-Assad needs to transfer power and leave the country.