China sends envoy to Middle East to ease tensions

China's Middle East envoy will return to the region to push for an end to fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced Saturday. Envoy Sun Bigan would soon travel to Egypt, Israel and Palestinian controlled territories "to promote the alleviation of tensions," the ministry said in a brief statement. It did not say which officials Sun hoped to meet with. While Beijing is not traditionally a heavyweight in Middle East diplomacy, China in recent years has become more active, seeing stability in the Middle East as helping to secure the oil and gas imports the Chinese economy relies on. Beijing, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, backed a resolution Thursday calling for an immediate cease-fire, though the appeal went ignored by Israel and Hamas, who continued fighting. In the brief statement announcing the envoy's trip, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said his government was "seriously concerned with the ceaselessly escalating tensions in Gaza."