Ever since the return of the Syrian war in 2015, which has seen both US alliance forces and as - of last - September, Russian forces too, jousting for political influence in the region under the guise of fighting ISIS while in reality either seeking to oust or preserve the Assad regime, one major player was missing: China.
That is about to change as the last major superpower enters the world's most volatile - and dangerous - region.
Beijing and Damascus have agreed that the Chinese military will have closer ties with Syria, and provide humanitarian aid to the civil war torn nation, a high-ranking People's Liberation Army officer said, adding that the training of Syrian personnel by Chinese instructors has also been discussed, according to Xinhua.
As has been historically the case, China tends to leave Middle Eastern diplomacy to the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, namely the United States, Britain, France and Russia, while relying on the region for oil supplies. But lately, for unknown reasons, China has been trying to get more involved, including sending envoys to help push for a diplomatic resolution to the violence there and hosting Syrian government and opposition figures according to Reuters.
The Director of the Office for International Military Cooperation of China's Central Military Commission, Guan Youfei, arrived in Damascus on Tuesday for talks with Syrian Defense Minister Fahad Jassim al-Freij, Xinhua added.