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China condemns 'cruel killings' of civilians

Updated: 2012-05-29 07:28
( Agencies)

Beijing on Monday condemned the "cruel killings" of civilians in the Syrian town of Houla and stressed the urgency of eliminating violence in Syria.

It was reported on Monday that at least 41 people, including eight children, were killed in the city of Hama over the past 24 hours.

The report, which could not be independently verified, came after the UN Security Council condemned the massacre of at least 108 civilians, including 32 children under the age of 10, in the Syrian town of Houla on Friday.

"China feels deeply shocked by the large number of civilian casualties in Houla, and condemns in the strongest terms the cruel killings of ordinary citizens, especially women and children," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said at a daily news conference in Beijing.

The incident once again shows that achieving a comprehensive ceasefire and eliminating violence in Syria is of great urgency, he said. Beijing called for an intermediate and substantial implementation of related UN resolutions and the six-point proposal by international mediator Kofi Annan.

China hopes that Syrian civilians' safety can be ensured. Liu urged related parties to create conditions to ease the situation soon and to boost a political resolution of the Syrian issue.

Images from Houla showing the bloodied bodies of children triggered shock and outrage around the world and underlined the failure of a six-week-old ceasefire plan aimed at stopping the violence.

Western and Arab states opposed to Syrian President Bashar Assad blamed the Syrian government for the killings in Houla. Damascus said it was the work of "armed terrorist groups".

"The Security Council condemned in the strongest possible terms the killings, confirmed by the United Nations observers, of dozens of men, women and children and the wounding of hundreds more in the village of Houla, near Homs, in attacks that involved a series of government artillery and tank shellings on a residential neighborhood," the UN statement said.

"Such outrageous use of force against civilian population constitutes a violation of applicable international law and of the commitments of the Syrian government under UN Security Council Resolutions," it said.

Bashar Ja'afari, Syrian permanent representative to the UN, said on Sunday that the massacre in Syria in which 108 people were confirmed dead by UN observers, is "appalling and unjustifiable".

"The massacre is an appalling and unjustified, and unjustifiable crime," Ja'afari told reporters. "This massacre was condemned by my government in the strongest terms possible."

Ja'afari made the statement outside the chamber of the Security Council shortly after the 15-nation council issued its press statement condemning the massacre.

"Both sides have obviously had a hand in the deaths of innocent people, including several dozen women and children," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday. "This area is controlled by the rebels, but it is also surrounded by government troops."

The head of the UN observer mission in Syria said on Monday he will emphasize "the suffering of the Syrian people" during Annan's visit.

The mass killings prompted sweeping international criticism of the Syrian government, although differences emerged from world powers over whether government forces were exclusively to blame.

"Today, I look very much forward to Annan's visit. I look forward to conveying my impressions of the Syrian people," Major General Robert Mood, head of the UN observer mission, said in Damascus. "Also to share with him that the suffering of the Syrian people is something that they don't deserve."

The violence comes at a time of deep concern over the conflict in Syria. The Houla massacre was one of the deadliest single days of the country's turbulence, which is in its 15th month.

"We cannot rule out the possibility that certain groups conspired to commit the killings to break the ongoing mediation and bring the situation back to greater chaos," said Zhang Xiaodong, an expert on Middle East studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Ruan Zongze, deputy director of the China Institute of International Studies, said that solid investigation is needed at present to say which party initiated the massacre.

But the UN definitely needs to strengthen the capacity of the observer delegation, Ruan said, adding that currently there are only 300 staff on the ground.

What is critical is how the UN report will describe the massacre, Ruan said.

Proof is very important because terrorist groups have been there, said Ye Hailin, a researcher from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Any pre-set stance will not be helpful in the search for a solution to the current crisis, Ye said.

China Daily-Reuters-AP-Xinhua