China official shows up in Syria, praises Russia’s role in conflict

by WorldTribune Staff, August 16, 2016

China, which says it has no interest in military involvement in Syria, is seeking closer military ties with President Bashar Assad’s regime, a Chinese official said.

Rear Adm. Guan Youfei, director of the Office for International Military Cooperation of China’s Central Military Commission, met Syrian Defense Minister Fahad Jassim al-Freij in Damascus recently, according to China’s Xinhua state news agency.

Rear Adm. Guan Youfei. /Minnie Chan/South China Morning Post
Rear Adm. Guan Youfei. /Minnie Chan/South China Morning Post

Guan also met a Russian general in Damascus, the news agency said, without giving details. China has regularly praised Moscow’s role in the Syrian conflict.

Beijing is concerned that Muslim Uighurs from western China’s Xinjiang region have traveled illegally via Southeast Asia and Turkey to Syria and Iraq to fight for jihadist groups.

Analysts say China, usually content to leave Middle Eastern diplomacy to the other permanent members of the UN Security Council, has been trying to get more involved in the Syrian conflict, including sending envoys and hosting Syrian government and opposition figures.

Guan said China had consistently played a positive role in pushing for a political resolution in Syria.

“China and Syria’s militaries have a traditionally friendly relationship, and China’s military is willing to keep strengthening exchanges and cooperation with Syria’s military,” Xinhua paraphrased Guan as saying.

Chinese and Syrian military officials also discussed personnel training and “reached a consensus” on the Chinese military providing humanitarian aid, Xinhua added.