A Chinese envoy has arrived in Syria to press for an unconditional halt to violence in the country and the beginning of political dialogue.
Li Huaxin, a former ambassador to Damascus, said Wednesday he was meeting officials to explain a six-point peace plan put forward by Beijing on Sunday.
"This visit aims at elaborating this proposal [the six points]," said Li. "Another goal of this visit is to discuss with the Syrian side about the current situation in the country. This is what our talk was about. I explained China's stance and the basis of China's proposal."
Li said he was also seeking to learn more from officials about conditions in the country, where Syrian troops have been waging fierce battles against lightly armed and civilian opponents of the government. A foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing said China has also been in contact with Syrian opposition groups.
China came under harsh international criticism after it acted with Russia to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution that called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the veto "despicable."
The Chinese plan, seen as a response to that criticism, calls for an unconditional halt to all violence, particularly against innocent civilians. It provides for the immediate beginning of a political dialogue through the mediation of the United Nations and the Arab League.
The plan also calls for all countries to respect Syria's sovereignty and for the United Nations to play a lead role in coordinating humanitarian-relief efforts.
Li may get a sympathetic hearing in Damascus because of Beijing's defense of the Assad government at the U.N. Security Council. One Damascus resident welcomed China's longstanding opposition to interference in the internal affairs of any country.
"The most important thing is that China is against foreign interference of Syrian issues. China holds that it is up to Syria to plan out how to solve Syrian crisis," said the resident. "We wish all the conflicts could be ended by any means."
The resident, who declined to be identified, said Syrians are anxious for peace.
China's six-point plan says specifically that Beijing opposes any armed interference or attempt to impose "regime change" in Syria.