China Urges All Sides To End Syria Violence

China's visiting envoy to Syria has called on all sides in the country to end violence, amid talks with President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus.

Syria Violence

China's visiting envoy to Syria has called on all sides in the country to end violence, amid talks with President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus.

Syrian TV quoted Zhai Jun as saying he backed the Syrian government's plan for a referendum on the constitution and subsequent elections.

The opposition says it cannot accept a referendum during continuing violence.

It said government forces on Saturday renewed their bombardment of opposition positions in the city of Homs.

Syrian TV quoted Mr Zhai as saying: "The position of China is to call on the government, the opposition and the rebels to halt acts of violence immediately.

"We hope that the referendum on a new constitution as well as the forthcoming parliamentary elections pass off calmly."

Mr Zhai said he hoped "calm [can] be restored as quickly as possibly, as that serves the interests of the Syrian people".

The opposition has called for a boycott of the 26 February referendum.

One key group, the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change, said it was "impossible for us to take part in this referendum before a stop to the violence and killings".

China was one of the nations that voted against a recent UN General Assembly resolution calling on Mr Assad to stop his crackdown and step down.

An editorial on Saturday in China's Global Times newspaper, published by the ruling Communist Party, said Beijing's vote showed "the country's courage to truly express itself and to calmly stand its ground... It is wrong to blindly come down on the side of the West in each vote."