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Qatar foreign minister in China after visit by UAE official

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BEIJING (AP) — The Qatari foreign minister began a visit to Beijing on Thursday, a day after his Chinese counterpart told a top official from Qatar's rival the United Arab Emirates that China hoped the rift between the Gulf countries could be repaired.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani was scheduled to meet Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi later in the day, China's foreign ministry said, although no details of any discussions were immediately released.

Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China supported calls to fight terrorism, maintain stability in the Gulf and shore up unity among members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Wang met Wednesdsay with UAE Minister of State Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, raising speculation that China was seeking to act in a mediating role. The sides have been at loggerheads since Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain severed relations with Qatar and cut air, sea and land routes with it over a month ago, accusing it of supporting extremist groups. Qatar denies the allegations.

However, Sheikh Saif Al Thani, the head of Qatar's government communications office, told The Associated Press that suggestions that Al Thani and Al Jaber were meeting in Beijing were "not true."

In his talks with Al Jaber, Wang said China is "confident that Gulf countries have the wisdom to resolve divergence and is willing to play a constructive role to help ease tensions according to the will of regional parties," according to China's official Xinhua News Agency.

China believes the crisis should be resolved through "political and diplomatic means" within the framework of the GCC, while outside parties can play a constructive role in furthering that process, Wang was quoted as saying.

Xinhua quoted Al Jaber as praising China's "objective and impartial position" on affairs concerning Gulf nations.

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