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Peacemaking role for envoy in Syria

By Zhang Yunbi and Chris Peterson (China Daily Europe) Updated: 2016-04-17 14:26

Xie Xiaoyan, who has been involved in talks over the Iran nuclear situation and South Sudan, has just embarked on a demanding new mission - as China's first special envoy on the Syrian issue.

The 62-year-old, whose appointment was confirmed on March 29, says the post is a sign of China's greater involvement in resolving the issue and its willingness to contribute "wisdom and solutions".

Veteran diplomats say the increasing number of envoys comes from China's expanding involvement in global issues - including Syria - and its increasing national interests.

"It's because China upholds an objective and fair stance on the Syria issue that there are increasing calls from the international community for the Chinese to play a greater role," Xie says.

Beijing has had a constant role in global efforts to tackle the Syria issue, communicating with both the Syrian government and the opposition to boost peace talks.

Xie takes his new title at a time when "special envoy diplomacy" is playing an increasing role in China's foreign affairs. The country now has at least six special envoys or representatives working on pressing issues.

The United Nations and the United States have also appointed envoys - Staffan de Mistura and Michael Ratney, respectively - to tackle the Syria issue, which has flared for five years.

Gong Xiaosheng, special envoy on the Middle East issue, says there are five hot spots in the region and that the Syria issue is "of great complexity".

Liu Guijin, a former special representative on African affairs, says: "The number of China's special envoys will continue to rise. China is increasingly proactive in being part of major global affairs."

Bill Jones with Executive Intelligence Review, a weekly US magazine, says US special envoys are often appointed "only for the duration of the 'crisis' or 'situation' for which he or she has been assigned".

"Because of their designation, special envoys can often bypass ordinary diplomatic channels and confer directly with the secretary (of state) or with the White House, possibly even the president, on the matter for which he or she has been assigned responsibility," he says.

Jonathan Cristol, a fellow at the World Policy Institute, says special envoys "can be a very useful tool" for China to safeguard its global interests, and it is hoped that such envoys will "have wide-ranging personal relationships with multiple actors".

Contact the writers through zhangyunbi@chinadaily.com.cn

Peacemaking role for envoy in Syria

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