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Syrian official in China amid diplomatic flurry
February 5, 2013, 9:25 am

 Civil war in Syria continues. [AP]

Over 70,000 people have died during the conflict in Syria. [AP]

Faisal Muqdad, Syria’s deputy foreign minister arrived in Beijing on Monday to hold talks with his Chinese counterpart on ways to peacefully resolve the civil war in his country.

“The visit is part of China’s efforts to push for a political resolution of the Syria issue,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a press briefing.

Chinese officials said that Muqdad will meet Yang Jiechi, foreign minister and Zhai Jun, deputy foreign minister during his four-day trip.

It is unclear whether Beijing will resuscitate its four-point Syria peace plan first introduced in late October. The plan envisioned a cease-fire in stages and a political transition to end the conflict.

Although China has sided with Russia in vetoing three Security Council resolutions meant to pressure  Bashar al-Assad, it has made efforts to engage in talks with all parties, including the opposition.

The visit comes at a time of heightened diplomatic activity by Russia, China and the US to end two years of bloodshed in Syria, which has claimed the lives of over 70,000 people.

On Monday, Moaz al-Khatib, the head of the Syrian National Coalition opposition bloc, reiterated that he was “ready for direct discussions with representatives of the Syrian regime in Cairo, Tunis or Istanbul”.

His announcement came after a weekend meeting with Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister on the sidelines of the 49th Munich Security Conference.

Al-Khatib said he had received a “clear invitation” from the foreign minister to visit Moscow, in what could be the beginning of an international diplomatic effort to end the civil war.

“Russia has a certain vision but we welcome negotiations to alleviate the crisis and there are lots of details that need to be discussed,” al-Khatib said after the talks.

Al-Khatib was also due to meet Joe Biden, the US Vice-President and Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran’s foreign minister this week.

Sources: Agencies