UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno has praised China's "important and constructive role" in helping resolve the Darfur issue.
China is playing a "very important and constructive role" in the UN Security Council to end the fighting in the Darfur regions in western Sudan, Guehenno said after meeting top European Union (EU) officials, including EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, in Brussels on Monday.
Guehenno said he believed China could help push forward the efforts to find a political solution to and a negotiated agreement on the Darfur problem.
Guehenno briefed Solana and other senior EU officials on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's recent visits to Chad, Sudan and Libya, and discussed with them the EU's plan to deploy a peacekeeping force in Chad, which shares a long border with Sudan.
Briefing diplomats and UN officials on Sino-African relations at the UN Headquarters in New York, China's special envoy on Africa said the country's cooperation with the continent is transparent, mutually beneficial, open and inclusive.
"China has a long and traditional relationship with Africa. It is not a newcomer. It has been engaged in Africa for at least five decades," Liu Guijin said.
The briefing was co-organized by the UN Office of the Special Adviser on Africa and the Permanent Mission of China.
China follows three basic principles - equality, mutual benefit and mutual respect - while developing its ties with African countries.
"China views African countries, big and small, as equal partners. We never try to impose our ideas, our ideologies or our social systems on the African countries," the Chinese envoy said.
"When it comes to economic ties and projects, we respect the choice of the African people and the governments of the African countries. We are not there to serve our interest. We serve the interests of the governments of the African countries, the Chinese government and the African and Chinese peoples," he said.
"On African issues, the Chinese government respects the opinion of relevant African countries, the neighboring countries and regional organizations."
On the China-Africa Cooperation Forum, he said the two sides held the first ministerial conference meeting in Beijing in October 2000. "That was a milestone in our relations with the African continent because before that our ties were basically on a bilateral basis."
Bilateral trade between China and Africa has been increasing steadily, with overall trade jumping to nearly $55 billion last year from $2 billion in 2000.
But, he said, compared with the existing potential, the bilateral trade volume is not big.
More and more Chinese firms are heading to Africa to invest, mainly in infrastructure and the mineral and energy sectors, Liu said.
"The media and some NGOs from developed countries have criticized China on this aspect," he said. But that only reflects their tendency to politicize trade deals between the two sides.
"According international organizations' figures, the amount of oil imported by China from Africa last year was just 8.7 percent of the total. The US accounted for 33 percent of the total oil exports from Africa, and the European Union 36 percent," he said
"Which proves China buys only a small proportion of African oil," he said.