A two-day conference in Ethiopia was aimed at exploring how China could play a more important role in the region, Beijing's special envoy says.

The Addis Ababa conference signals the Asian superpower's push to gain influence in a region beset by conflict and security issues.
The Addis Ababa conference signals the Asian superpower's push to gain influence in a region beset by conflict and security issues. (Reuters Archive)

China wants to play a "more important role" in promoting peace and security in the Horn of Africa, Beijing's special envoy has said, but added that the conference did not discuss any specific conflict in the region.

The two-day “China-Horn of Africa Conference on Security, Governance and Development“ in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, ended on Tuesday.

Foreign ministry officials from Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, South Sudan, Kenya, Uganda and Djibouti took part in the first-of-its-kind event. Eritrea was absent.

The event signals the Asian superpower's push to gain influence in a region beset by conflict and security issues.

Xue Bing, Beijing's first special envoy to the region, told reporters: "We did not discuss a specific conflict (or) dispute."

The conference was aimed at exploring how China could play a more important role in the region, he said, "not only in trade and investments but also in area of peace and development".

"This is the first time for China to play a role in the area of security," he added.

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Peace-building in focus 

A statement at the end of the meeting said participants "uphold the vision to work together to maintain peace and security in the region".

"The parties are willing to…manage differences and disputes between countries of the region, and pursue peaceful settlement through dialogue and negotiation in an effort to ease the security situation in countries of the region," it said.

China's Xue had said earlier that Beijing was willing to act as a mediator to resolve regional disputes.

On Tuesday, however, he acknowledged that conference discussions "did not touch upon the mediation efforts and nobody raised this issue".

And while his responsibilities included mediating all kinds of conflicts, it was on one condition, he said: "Parties concerned have to agree to that."

Asked why Eritrea did not participate, Xue said "they could not show up due to what they said were technical issues".

Xue was appointed to his role in February, shortly after a visit to Eritrea, Kenya and the Comoros by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

China has a military base in Djibouti, its only one in Africa, as well as a port aimed at securing its vast economic interests in the region.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies