China will invite the Syrian government and key members in the Syrian opposition to Beijing for talks intended to commence a political process to end the Syrian civil war, according to a statement released by the Chinese Foreign Ministry Monday.
“China would invite representatives of the Syrian government and relevant opposition forces as part of China’s constructive efforts to promote peace talks and the political settlement of the Syrian issue,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei told journalists.
Syrian Foreign Minister Waleed Al-Mualem will visit China from 23 to 26 December, and will meet his Chinese counterpart.
The UN Security Council approved a resolution Friday to launch a roadmap for a peace process in Syria.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Friday that China would invite representatives of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s government, and opposition groups that are not linked to extremist or terrorist activities, to the talks.
He emphasised the harm of the ongoing fighting in Syria and expressed China’s long-held point of view that a political solution is the only option. He also urged the UN to help unite the Syrian opposition groups as a crucial step before holding any negotiations.
China had previously hosted representatives of both sides separately; however, it has yet to play an important role in mediating the crisis.
Colleen Wang, a journalist from Phoenix Weekly, a Hong Kong magazine, believes these most recent diplomatic meetings could signal a change in the Chinese foreign policy in the Middle East.
“In the past, for one thing, China had little political ambition in these areas, which is quite different from other major powers, such as the US and Russia. For another, China had been implementing a low-profile foreign policy for more than 30 years, so it tended to keep distance from other countries’ domestic policies and issues,” Wang told Daily News Egypt.
Since current Chinese President Xi rose to power two years ago, China is revising its international engagements, hoping to garner greater international statue that matches its economic prestige.
In addition to its Syrian initiative, China attempted to play a diplomatic mediatory role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 2013; in addition, Chine has played an active role in the Iranian nuclear negotiation talks in the last two years.
However, it is unclear whether China is pursuing geopolitical interests in Syria.
“The only thing that guarantees a disinterested stance from China is for it to make sure that it adheres to the UN agreement with a peaceful aim. So far, it’s proactive foreign policy is still trying to not intervene,” Wang added.
Emanuele Scimia, foreign affairs analyst at South China Morning Post, believes that although a policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries remains a beacon of Chinese foreign policy, it is not the first time that China has tried to play a diplomatic role with regards to the Syrian conflict.
“In fact, Beijing already proposed an ineffective six-point peace plan for Syria in 2012. However, in general, we can certainly view a more proactive diplomatic conduct by Chinese leaders outside the Pacific region and across the Greater Middle East,” Scimia told the Daily News Egypt.
China emerged as a broker in the Afghan conflict and even hosted a delegation of Taliban negotiators. “Yet, the probability that these Chinese diplomatic initiatives – in Syria as well as in Afghanistan – reach practical results appears questionable,” he added.