September 14, 2012 / 7:41 AM / 7 years ago

Syrian opposition group to visit China next week

BEIJING (Reuters) - Members of a Syrian opposition group will visit China next week, China’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday, weeks after an envoy of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s visited, as Beijing steps up diplomacy to help resolve the crisis gripping the country.

China has been keen to show it does not take sides in Syria and has urged the government there to talk to the opposition and take steps to meet demands for political change. It has also said a transitional government should be formed.

Representatives of Syria’s National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change will be in China from September 16-20, China’s Foreign Ministry said. Their last known visit was in February.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China had always made proactive and constructive efforts to bring about a ceasefire in Syria and start a transition initiated by the Syrian people.

“This visit is part of China’s above mentioned efforts,” Hong told a daily news briefing.

Assad’s envoy, Bouthaina Shaaban, visited in August when China repeated a call for talks between the Syrian government and opposition.

Both China and Russia have vetoed proposed U.N. Security Council resolutions intended to put pressure on Assad. China has repeatedly said it opposes forceful foreign intervention and called for a political solution in Syria.

Last year, China, along with Russia, abstained from a vote on a Security Council resolution authorizing a NATO air campaign over Libya, where Muammar Gaddafi was battling insurgents who eventually toppled him.

Beijing later regretted backing the Security Council resolution on Gaddafi’s government which led to NATO expanding intervention that eventually helped topple him, analysts say.

Still, China wooed the Libyan opposition during that conflict, and relations with the new Libyan government have generally been smooth since Gaddafi’s overthrow.

Reporting by Michael Martina; Writing by Sui-Lee Wee and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel

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