BEIJING - China has called for all sides in the South Sudan conflict to stop fighting, China's foreign ministry said, just as the UN Security Council approved plans to almost double the number of peacekeepers in the world's newest country.
The conflict in South Sudan has killed hundreds and some 45,000 civilians are seeking protection at U.N. bases. Violence erupted in the capital, Juba, on Dec. 15 and quickly spread, dividing the land-locked country of 10.8 million people along ethnic lines.
The fighting has also affected oil production, which accounts for 98 percent of government revenue in South Sudan. It has forced Chinese state-owned China National Petroleum Company , a major oil investor in South Sudan, to evacuate some of its workers.
China's foreign ministry said in a statement late on Tuesday that deputy foreign minister Zhang Ming had said China is playing close attention to the conflict and the impact it was having on South Sudan's neighbors.
"As South Sudan's friend and partner, China calls on all sides of the conflict to ... immediately cease hostile actions, and open negotiations as soon as possible", the statement quoted Zhang as saying.
The remarks were made at a meeting with diplomats from member states of the East African Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a seven-nation development organization that includes Sudan and Kenya, the statement said.
Zhang also said China supports the IGAD sending a mediation team to South Sudan.