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China to host Syrian troops for 'humanitarian' training

Beijing says its military will train Syrian forces on Chinese soil 'to ease the humanitarian crisis in Syria'
Chinese troops on exhibition in Hong Kong in July (AFP)

China's military will provide training for Syrian armed forces, a spokesman for Beijing's defence ministry said on Thursday, adding it would take place on Chinese soil.

Beijing is a longstanding backer of the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad, which has engaged in a bloody war that has left more than 290,000 people dead and displaced millions since it began in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government demonstrations.

Last week senior Chinese military official Guan Youfei met with Syria's defence minister in Damascus and said he wanted closer military ties with the Syrian government, state media reported. 

"The Chinese military will provide the Syrian side with medical and nursing professional training," defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian told reporters at a monthly briefing.

The training would take place in China, he added, and was intended "to ease the humanitarian crisis in Syria".

The Chinese military has already provided Syrian authorities with medical equipment and medicines "to help reduce the humanitarian suffering of the Syrian people," Qian said.

"For a long period of time, China and Syria have helped each other. And China has been pushing for a political solution of the Syrian conflict and we have always supported the independence of Syria," he added. 

As well as supporting Assad's government, Beijing is close to Moscow, which has carried out strikes on rebel-held areas of Aleppo, as have Assad's forces.

After Youfeis' visit to Damascus, China's state broadcaster questioned the authenticity of a harrowing video showing a stunned-looking four-year-old boy covered in blood and dust after an air strike in Aleppo, alleging it may have been faked as part of a Western "propaganda war". 

The footage brought worldwide attention to the plight of children in the bloody siege of the city, and sparked diplomatic disagreement, as Russia denied carrying out the attack, and Chinese media said the group that shot the video had links to the British military.

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