This photo, released by the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), shows Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun speaking to the press following a meeting with Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, on February 18. Zhai called for all sides in Syria to stop the violence and for elections to go ahead peacefully.
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
BEIJING: Western support for Syrian rebels could trigger civil war in the violence-hit nation, an influential Chinese newspaper said, as it defended Beijing's decision to veto a UN resolution.
The UN Security Council resolution, which condemned a crackdown on protesters by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, would have cornered Damascus and led to worse violence, said a front-page commentary in the People's Daily, on Monday.
"If Western nations continue to fully support Syrian opposition forces as they appear to be doing now, then in the end a large scale civil war will erupt," said the writer, Qu Xing, director of the China Institute of International Studies.
"If this happens then the possibility of armed foreign intervention will be unavoidable."
China, which has twice joined Russia in blocking UN Security Council condemnation of the Damascus regime's crackdown, said it was vital that "calm be restored as quickly as possible", state television reported.
China and Russia have faced a barrage of criticism for blocking the latest UN Security Council resolution condemning the bloody crackdown in Syria, including from Arab nations with which Beijing normally has good ties.
Last week, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun travelled to Damascus for talks with Assad during which he called for all sides to stop the violence and elections to go ahead.
But Zhai, whose visit coincided with some of the worst violence to date in the flashpoint central city of Homs, said Beijing opposed armed intervention and forced "regime change" in Syria.
More than 6,000 people have died in nearly a year of upheaval in Syria, as Assad's hardline regime seeks to snuff out a revolt that began with peaceful protests in March 2011 amid the Arab Spring.
Assad on Wednesday called a constitutional referendum for later this month that would effectively end nearly 50 years of single-party rule, which critics see as a move aimed at placating growing global outrage over the bloodshed.