The leader of the main exile Syrian opposition group will visit China this week, Beijing said today, despite the country repeatedly blocking UN Security Council resolutions on the conflict.
China is a veto-wielding permanent member of the UN Security Council and has voted against resolutions on Syria four times alongside Russia - which is mounting a campaign of air strikes to defend President Bashar al-Assad.
Most recently, it blocked a 2014 measure to ask the International Criminal Court to investigate war crimes in the country, and Beijing has consistently called instead for a “political solution” to the conflict.
Khaled Khoja, President of the Istanbul-based National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces will visit China from tomorrow to Friday, foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a regular briefing.
“We believe that at the current stage we need to seek a ceasefire and a political settlement in parallel,” she said.
The Security Council in mid-December unanimously endorsed a proposed peace plan to bring the regime and opposition together for talks this month.
China hosted members of the Syrian regime on an official visit the following week, when Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem declared Damascus ready to participate, but appeared to make it conditional on which opposition groups will attend.
It would be the third round of talks in Geneva - the last session took place in early 2014 but did not bear fruit.
China depends on the Middle East for its oil supplies but has long taken a back seat in the region’s disputes, only recently beginning to expand its role.