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China said on Monday that an envoy of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would visit Beijing from Tuesday, and the country is also considering inviting opposition representatives. Experts said China is attempting to offer a communication platform for both sides.
The envoy, Bouthaina Shaaban, who is political and media advisor to the Syrian president, would meet Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, the ministry said in a statement.
"To promote the political solution to the Syria issue, China has always actively balanced its work between the Syrian government and the opposition," ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement on the ministry's website.
Qin reiterated China has been urging the two sides to substantially implement the six-point peace plan proposed by the UN-AL joint envoy Kofi Annan and relevant UN Security Council resolutions.
"The Arrangement of Shaaban's visit is part of the above-mentioned work by the Chinese side," Qin said, adding that China is also considering inviting members of the Syrian opposition groups to visit.
China's contact with the Syrian government shows that China believes that it is still possible for the government and opposition to reach a political resolution, said Pang Zhongying, an expert on international affairs with the Renmin University of China.
"Some thought the Syrian regime had nearly collapsed after many top officials were killed or defected, but things are not that simple. It is still hard for the opposition to replace the government without NATO's practical support."
More relevant countries have now realized a leadership reshuffle in Syria may not be a "happy ending", he added.
With Shaaban's visit and possible exchanges with the opposition, China can gain a better understanding of the situation, and explore the possibility of further political solutions, said Zhang Xiaodong, an expert on Middle East studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
But it is clear that China will never take sides in the Syrian conflict - that is one of China's basic principles, he said.
"Russia has never publicly invited the opposition in Syria. But China has invited both sides. This is the difference between China and Russia," Shi Yinhong, also a professor at Renmin University of China told Reuters.
"Syria government is more vulnerable than before. The opposition has gained new-found support from the West, but they're also fragile. China has a pressing need to talk to the two sides. The situation is nearing an end," he added.
China's mediation will yield positive influence over the situation, and push it to ease the tension, Zhang said, but it needs more time and efforts from all related parties to solve the issue.
On Monday, Syria's ambassador to Iran Hamed Hassan said in Teheran that the government would welcome dialogue with opposition parties in order to bring an end to armed conflict.
Leaders of Muslim countries, including Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will gather on Tuesday for an extraordinary summit called by Saudi King Abdullah who is pushing to mobilize support for the Syrian rebellion.
The Syrian issue will be a top priority in the summit taking place in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, said Akmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
The two-day summit convenes as fighting rages over Syria's northern city of Aleppo, 17 months into a countrywide conflict that has cost more than 21,000 lives, according to monitors.
Zhou Wa contributed to the story.
(China Daily 08/14/2012 page11)