China has sent six additional military observers to assist the U.N. mission in Syria. Along with two personnel who previously arrived on April 25, that means China has an eight-member team in Damascus.
China maintains that a political solution between opposition groups and President Bashar al-Assad's regime remains possible.
In March, the U.N. estimated that more than 9,000 people have already perished in Syria since uprisings began against the government well over a year ago. A six-point ceasefire brokered by Arab League envoy and former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, and later approved by the Security Council, was supposed to have gone into effect on April 12, but violence has not abated. Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned last Monday that the world was in a race against time to prevent a civil war [in Syria] -- with mass casualties.
The Chinese team marks a small contribution to the 189-strong multinational contingent of U.N. observers already in Syria, which is eventually expected to reach 300 members. The contribution, however, has been widely publicized in China, which is eager to maintain its image of neutrality and impartiality during the conflict. With respect to the situation in Syria, Beijing has upheld its usual foreign policy position of stated noninterference in the affairs of other nations.
China joined Russia in early February to veto a U.N. resolution urging Assad to step down. The decision was widely criticized in the West by diplomats, analysts, and nongovernmental organizations as support for the Assad regime.
That hasn't stopped Syrian opposition leader Burhan Ghalioun from attempting to pressure China into offering greater support for the opposition. Ghalioun, head of Syria's government-in-exile Syrian National Council, concluded a three-day visit to China last Thursday, meeting with Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.
The Chinese observer team in Syria consists of experienced peacekeepers, including a colonel. The country's Ministry of Defense said that its observers have been trained to deal with terrorism, hijacking, and explosives, a sign of serious attention paid to violence in the country. According to Xinhua, China has 83 observers on U.N. missions in 11 areas worldwide.
The European Union sent military vehicles to Syria on Saturday to protect its own observers already in the country. The move comes after U.N. observers traveling in a truck convoy were attacked near the southern Syrian city of Daraa, located close to the border with Jordan.
On Friday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry condemned the dual bombings in Damascus, saying that it was opposed to all forms of terrorism and violence acts, and that it strongly condemns the bombing attack and expresses sincere sympathies to the families of the victims.
The Chinese government said Syria is facing an important juncture in finding a political solution to its problems. All parties in Syria should uphold the ceasefire and commit to ending violence.