China meets opposition amid fears of isolation
BEIJING / BERLINChina said yesterday it held talks with a key Syrian opposition group this week amid growing fears that Beijing’s veto of a U.N. Syria resolution would affect cooperation on other international issues with the U.S.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said the visit by the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change (NCB) had “long been scheduled” and was not linked to China’s controversial veto. NCB representatives told Chinese officials they would like Beijing “to play a bigger role for an early resolution to the Syrian crisis,” Liu said. A top Chinese diplomat eased the fears and said U.S. outrage over Beijing’s veto of a U.N. Syria resolution won’t affect cooperation on other international issues.
SNC meets in Qatar
Meanwhile, Syrian National Council (SNC), main opposition group, met in Qatar yesterday to discuss developments in their country. In three days of talks headed by SNC chief Burhan Ghalioun, they will discuss “the situation on the ground in Syria” as well as means of helping rebels, a SNC spokesman, Mohammed Sarmini, said. On Feb. 8, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon launched the idea of sending a joint observer mission with the Arab League. The pan-Arab bloc’s secretary general, Nabil al-Arabi, said he had spoken with Ban on the proposed mission, which would include a U.N. envoy.
On the al-Assad side, an Iranian deputy foreign minister held talks in Damascus Feb. 8 with Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, the state news agency SANA said. It said Muallem briefed the Iranian envoy, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, on the wide-ranging reforms being undertaken in Syria.
Killings continue in Homs
Germany has kicked out four Syrian diplomats after the arrest in Berlin earlier this week of two men suspected of spying on Syrian opposition activists in the country, the foreign ministry said yesterday.
On the ground, Syrian forces bombarded opposition-held neighborhoods of the city of Homs with rocket and mortar fire yesterday. The Syrian Revolution Coordinating Commission said at least 30 civilians in Homs were killed in bombardments on yesterday. The Syrian Human Rights Organization said this week’s assault on Homs had killed at least 300 civilians and wounded 1,000.