December 21, 2015 / 9:07 AM / 4 years ago

China to invite Syrian government, opposition to visit

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will invite members of the Syrian government and opposition to visit as Beijing looks for ways to help with the peace process, China’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday.

The U.N. Security Council on Friday unanimously approved a resolution endorsing an international road map for a Syrian peace process, a rare show of unity among major powers on a conflict that has claimed more than a quarter of a million lives.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei, citing Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s comments at the United Nations over the weekend, said China would “soon” invite the Syrian government and opposition figures to China.

This is part of China’s efforts to play a constructive role in promoting a political resolution to the crisis, Hong added.

He gave no details.

China has played host to both Syrian government and opposition figures before, though it remains a peripheral diplomatic player in the crisis.

While relying on the region for oil supplies, China tends to leave Middle Eastern diplomacy to the other five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, namely the United States, Britain, France and Russia.

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby told a regular news briefing he had only seen news reports of the Chinese offer and he did not know if it was discussed in a phone conversation between Wang and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday.

He added, however: “We would welcome any constructive efforts to continue to move the political process forward.”

Reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by Robert Birsel and Grant McCool

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