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Premier said the trend toward democracy can not be held back
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said on Wednesday that the Arab people's demand for democracy must be respected, and that China would not take sides in the Syrian issue.
"We believe that the demand for democracy by the Arab people must be respected and truly responded to, and I believe this trend toward democracy cannot be held back by any force," Wen told a news conference at the end of the annual session.
"China does not take sides with any party, including the government of Syria. We make our own judgment and determine our own position on this issue on the basis of actual facts," he said.
Photographers work at a news conference with Premier Wen Jiabao after the close of the Fifth Session of the 11th National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, on Wednesday. [Wang Ye / Xinhua]
Wen's remarks come amid international concern over the turmoil in Syria that has been ongoing since last March. China has long opposed military intervention and insisted on a six-point proposition for the political settlement of the Syrian issue.
"China respects the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people for change and for the pursuit of their own interests," said Wen, who called for an immediate ceasefire in Syria and for civilians to be protected.
The United Nations said more than 8,000 people have died in the conflict.
Assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Ming, Beijing's envoy to the Syrian issue, said on Tuesday that China and Arab countries share a wide consensus on a political settlement to the Syrian crisis.
After wrapping up his visit to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Zhang told reporters in Cairo that relevant parties understood and appreciated the Chinese stance regarding a political solution and were willing to maintain close contacts with China.
"China is willing to work together with Arab countries for an early, fair and realistic solution that can be accepted by all parties regarding the Syrian crisis," he said.
China will provide $2 million in emergency aid to the Syrian people through the International Committee of the Red Cross, Li Baodong, the Chinese permanent representative to the UN, said on Monday.After meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and opposition groups, UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan was studying Assad's response to his proposals aimed at restoring peace, Annan's spokesman said on Wednesday.
Assad issued a presidential decree on Tuesday to hold parliamentary elections on May 7, according to the Syrian parliament's website. Annan's and China's mediation efforts are helping to ease the tension, and the election date being brought forward is a positive signal, said Li Guofu, director of Middle East studies at the China Institute of International Studies.
"But if the opposition rejects the ceasefire or any cooperative offer, Annan's mediation will be of limited use," he said.
The second meeting of Friends of Syria will be held in Turkey on April 2.
The first meeting, which was held in Tunisia on Feb 24, failed to yield constructive agreement over Syria and only exposed the disunity and differences among opposition groups and the West, Li said.
AFP, Xinhua and Reuters contributed to this story.
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