BEIJING China will host an envoy of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the crisis in Gaza, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday, adding the government had been in touch with all players in the conflict to try and find a solution.
China, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council with veto powers, has traditionally had a low profile in Middle East diplomacy, but has maintained close relations with the Palestinians for decades.
In recent years, it has also cultivated good ties with Israel, especially in the field of defense.
The envoy, secretary-general of the Palestinian People's Party, Bassam Al-Salhi, will be in China from Thursday for a three-day trip, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing.
"China is paying great attention to the present situation in Gaza," Hua said. "China has been in close touch with Israel, Palestine and other countries, and has called on all sides, especially Israel, to exercise maximum restraint and cease fire as soon as possible to avoid the situation worsening."
"We support the necessary steps taken by the international community, especially the U.N. Security Council," she said. "China will continue to use its own means to work hard to ameliorate the situation between Israel and Palestine and maintain peace and stability in the region."
Hua added that China also supports the Security Council "responding to calls from the international community, including the Arab world, to issue as soon as possible a consistent and beneficial message about the Gaza situation".
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi had called the Egyptian foreign minister "to support efforts of the Arab League and Arab countries to ameliorate the situation in Gaza", Hua said.
China has tried on and off over the years to mediate in the Israeli-Palestinian issue but with little apparent success.
Israeli air strikes shook the Gaza Strip and Palestinian rockets struck across the border as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held talks in Jerusalem in the early hours of Wednesday, seeking a truce that can hold back Israel's ground troops.
(This story corrects typo in penultimate paragraph)
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Writing by Sui-Lee Wee; editing by Miral Fahmy)