Updated: 04/17/2014 00:01 | By Agence France-Presse

Syria at 'critical moment', China tells opposition chief

Syria has reached a "critical moment" as the world awaits news of fresh peace talks, China's foreign minister told the warring nation's opposition leader Ahmad Jarba in Beijing Wednesday.


Syria at 'critical moment', China tells opposition chief

Syrian National Coalition chief Ahmad Jarba (left) shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi before their meeting in Beijing, on April 16, 2014 - by Wang Zhao

Wang Yi was speaking at the start of four days of talks with a delegation led by the head of the Syrian National Coalition, as Beijing attempts to portray a neutral stance in the three-year conflict.

Along with Russia, China has given key diplomatic backing to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, using its veto in the UN Security Council to block several draft resolutions against his regime.

"The current situation in Syria has reached a new critical moment," Wang told Jarba at the foreign ministry in Beijing.

"The international community has been expecting a third round of talks and China would like to contribute," he added, referring to an expected resumption of negotiations following two abortive rounds of peace talks in Switzerland.

"This is the first time for us to visit China and we have placed our hope on it," Jarba told Wang.

More than 150,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict broke out in March 2011, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Beijing routinely voices opposition to interference in other countries' domestic affairs and strongly opposes foreign military action over Syria, regularly calling for a "political solution" to the crisis.

China has previously hosted both opposition and government delegations and has routinely called for dialogue between the warring sides. 

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