Syrian foreign minister to visit China this week

BEIJING (Reuters) - Syria’s foreign minister will visit China this week, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday, amid a renewed bid by Beijing to play a more active role in finding an end to conflict in the Middle East.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem speaks during a news conference after a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia, November 27, 2015. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem will be in China from Dec. 23 to Dec. 26 and will meet his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing.

Wang over the weekend invited Syrian government and opposition figures to come to China as Beijing looks to ways to help with the peace process.

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.

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.

Hong said China hoped for more international cooperation in fighting terrorism to avoid incidents like the downing of a Russian fighter jet.

“The downing of the jet is a loss to the international effort to fight terrorism,” Hong said.

Investigators in Moscow said on Monday they were unable to retrieve information from the damaged black box of a Russian warplane shot down by Turkey last month, data the Kremlin hoped would support its version of what happened.

Hong said Chinese specialists had recently participated in the black box’s analysis at Russia’s invitation.

China has expressed concern that Uighurs, a mostly Muslim people from western China’s Xinjiang, have ended up in Syria and Iraq fighting for militant groups there.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie, Robert Birsel