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28 November 2023

Russia, China oppose 'forced regime change" in Syria

Anti-government protesters carry coffins during the funeral of protesters killed in earlier clashes in Baba Amro, near Homs, in this handout picture received January 29, 2012. (REUTERS)

By Reuters

China and Russia have reiterated their opposition to the use of force to resolve the crisis in Syria, where escalating violence has killed thousands of civilians who oppose President Bashar al-Assad.

Arab and Western states urged the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday at act swiftly on a resolution calling for Assad to step aside.

The United States strongly backed the call by the Arab League and Qatar for "rapid and decisive action", which came as Assad's government forces reasserted control of Damascus suburbs after beating back rebels at the gates of the capital.

"China is firmly opposed to the use of force to solve the Syrian problem and resolutely opposes pushing for forced regime change in Syria, as it violates the United Nations Charter and the basic norms guiding the practice of international relations," Xinhua quoted Chinese Ambassador to the United Nations Li Baodong as saying to the Security Council.

The brief news report from Xinhua did not give other details.

China, along with Russia, has resisted a Western push for a Security Council resolution condemning the Syrian government's 10-month crackdown on pro-reform protests.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said they would not support any action that would be imposed on Syria and would avoid taking sides in an internal conflict.

"The international community unfortunately did take sides in Libya and we would never allow the Security Council to authorise anything similar to what happened in Libya," Lavrov said in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"Yes, we condemn strongly the use of force by government forces against civilians, but we can condemn in the same strong way the activities of the armed extremist groups who attack government positions, who attack administration in various provinces of Syria, who attack a police station and who terrorise people telling them not to come to jobs, not to come to hospitals, not to come to shops."


China and Russia have prevented the Security Council from approving any military intervention in Syria and vetoed a Western-backed resolution against Assad's government.

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby called on the council to take "rapid and decisive action" by approving the resolution. Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani warned that Syria's "killing machine is still at work."

"Do not let the Syrian people down in its plight," Elaraby said.

Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari rejected the suggestion his government was responsible for the crisis, and accused Western powers of dreaming of "the return of colonialism and hegemony" in the Middle East.

Elaraby said Arab nations wanted to avoid foreign military intervention in the Syrian crisis, which has killed more than 5,000 civilians according to U.N. Qatari leader Sheikh Hamad emphasized the same point and suggested the council should use economic leverage instead.

"We are not calling for a military intervention," Sheikh Hamad said. "We are advocating the exertion of a concrete economic pressure so that the Syrian regime might realise that it is imperative to meet the demands of its people."

Lavrov said the policy of isolation and seeking regime change risked igniting a "much bigger drama" in the Middle East.

"The people who are obsessed with removing regimes in the region, they should be really thinking about the broader picture. And I'm afraid that if this vigour to change regimes persists, we are going to witness a very bad situation much, much, much broader than just Syria, Libya, Egypt or any other single country."

Beijing, which generally avoids taking action in the domestic affairs of other nations, has played a low-key role in the turmoil that has swept the Middle East and North Africa.

But it has also moved swiftly to normalise ties with governments that have been overthrown by popular revolts, such as in Libya.

Clinton told the Security Council on Tuesday the rest of the world faced a choice to "stand with the people of Syria and the region or become complicit in the continuing violence there".

"The evidence is clear that Assad's forces are initiating nearly all the attacks that kill civilians, but as more citizens take up arms to resist the regime's brutality, violence is increasingly likely to spiral out of control," she said.