BEIJING (REUTERS) - Syrian opposition leader Ahmad Jarba will lead a delegation to China this week and meet the country's foreign minister, the government said on Monday, in Beijing's latest effort at mediation in the crisis.
China and its ally Russia have vetoed Western efforts to impose UN penalties on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
But China has been keen to show it is not taking sides and has urged the Syrian government to talk to the opposition and take steps to meet demands for political change.
China has played host to both opposition and government delegations, though to little apparent effect.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Jarba and a delegation from his Syrian National Coalition would visit China from Tuesday to Friday, meeting both Chinese experts and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
Hua said that Wang and Jarba will "exchange views" on the situation in Syria and how to resolve the issue politically. "We are now in the fourth year of the unrest in Syria, which has been a terrible disaster for its people and has been a huge shock to regional peace and stability," she told a daily news briefing.
"China's hosting of the delegation of the Syrian National Coalition is part of China's hard work to proactively and in a balanced way promote peace in Syria."
China, not a major diplomatic player in the Middle East, has consistently called for a political resolution for Syria and opposed the use of military force.
Hua said that China was paying close attention to the latest reports of chemical weapons being used in Syria.
Opposition activists earlier this month again accused Assad's forces of using poison gas in Syria's civil war. "No matter who uses chemical weapons, China is resolutely opposed to it," Hua said.