China says Syrian foreign minister to visit Beijing

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem will visit China this week to meet his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi, in what Beijing said was part of its efforts to push for a political solution to end fighting in the country.

Mr Moualem will be in China from Feb 4 to Feb 7, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing.

"This is part of China's effort to push for a political resolution of the Syrian issue," Ms Hua said.

Mr Moualem last visited China, one of five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, in April last year.

China, along with Russia, has blocked three Security Council resolutions aimed at pushing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad out or pressuring him to end a civil war in which more than 60,000 people have died.

But China has been keen to show it is not taking sides, inviting both Syrian government officials and opposition members to visit, despite having little influence in the Middle East.

It has urged the Syrian government to talk to the opposition and take steps to meet demands for political change, and has said a transitional government should be formed.