China appoints first special envoy for Syrian conflict

China appoints former ambassador to Iran as first special envoy for Syria crisis as it seeks to play more active role in Middle East

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Xie Xiaoyan, China’s first special envoy to Syria crisis, gives a press conference on Japanese and Chinese relations at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa on January 15, 2014.

China appointed its first special envoy for the Syrian crisis on Tuesday, Xie Xiaoyan - a career diplomat who is former ambassador to Iran, for in an attempt to play more active role in the Middle East.

China tends to leave Middle Eastern diplomacy to the other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council - namely the United States, Britain, France and Russia - while relying on the region for oil supplies.

However, China has been trying to get more involved, including recently hosting both Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem and opposition representatives, though at different times.

China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei declared the new special envoy as Xie Xiaoyan in a daily news briefing. Before Xie was appointed, he was most recently China’s ambassador to Ethiopia and the African Union.

"As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China has always proactively dedicated itself to the appropriate resolution of the Syria issue," Hong said, adding that a political solution was the only way out of the conflict.

Hong said that China always backs the mediation efforts of UN Syria special envoy Staffan de Mistura and has provided humanitarian aid to the region.

A man sits in front of a damaged building in a rebel held area of Aleppo, Syria, on March 27, 2016. (Reuters)

China’s appointment of its own special envoy will help push the peace process forward and "better proactively put forward China's wisdom" and its proposals, Hong said.

Hong stated that Xie, 62, is a deeply experienced diplomat very familiar with the Middle East.

"We believe he will certainly fulfil this mission well," Hong said.

China has earlier appointed special envoys to crisis zones with mixed results.

China’s African envoys have been deeply involved in South Sudan. However, its previous special envoys to the Middle East had little tangible effect.

A cessation of hostilities has been agreed in Syria, accepted by Bashar al Assad’s regime and the opposition, which is the first of its kind since the war began five years ago. The two warring sides are currently engaged in peace talks.

However, the truce does not include areas held by the DAESH terrorist organisation and the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda's Syrian affiliate.

TRTWorld and agencies