China on Thursday praised a meeting between Burma’s leaders and a United Nations’ special envoy as a positive step toward restoring calm in the troubled region.

UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari spent four days in Burma, where the military junta last week launched a deadly crackdown on monks and civilians protesting steep price hikes and 45 years of brutal military rule.

Gambari and the junta’s reclusive leader Snr-Gen Than Shwe sat in the same room together Tuesday for more than an hour in the remote capital of Naypyidaw.

Neither side has released details of the meeting but China called it progress.

“It is a beneficial step that Mr Gambari deeply exchanged ideas’ with Myanmar’s [Burma’s] leaders on the situation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said in a statement posted Thursday on the ministry’s Web site. “We give a positive evaluation of the efforts made jointly by Myanmar’s leaders and Mr Gambari.”

Liu said Beijing, a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council and a close ally of Burma, has “made its own efforts to support the UN secretary-general and his Myanmar special envoy’s negotiations” but did not elaborate.

“We are grateful for the achievements made by Mr Gambari in this trip,” Liu said.

China, Burma’s biggest trading partner, has been in a bind since the conflict began unfolding. The communist government has developed close diplomatic ties with junta leaders and is hungry for the country’s bountiful oil and gas resources.

But with the Beijing Olympics only months away, China is eager to fend off criticism that it shelters unpopular or abusive regimes around the world.

Liu said China “appeals that relevant parties of Myanmar continue to remain calm, and resume the all-round stability of the situation as soon as possible,” Liu said.

“The Chinese side has noticed that the situation of Myanmar has in recent days calmed down. This is the result of joint efforts of relevant parties of Myanmar and the international community,” Liu said. “The Chinese side wishes that the situation will further develop in a positive direction.”

Gambari is expected to brief UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the UN Security Council on Friday on the outcome of his trip.