Monday, June 17, 2024

China’s president calls for peace conference and ‘justice’ over Gaza war as Arab leaders visit Beijing

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has decried “tremendous sufferings” in the Middle East and urged an international peace conference as leaders from Arab nations visit Beijing amid mounting global concern over Israel’s war in the Gaza Strip.

“Since last October, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has escalated drastically, throwing the people into tremendous sufferings. War should not continue indefinitely. Justice should not be absent forever,” Xi said Thursday at the opening of a meeting between top diplomats from China and Arab states, also attended by several leaders from the region.

He also reiterated China’s call for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, as well as Beijing’s support for a “more broad-based, authoritative and effective international peace conference”.

The diplomatic gatherings in Beijing come as Israel’s war in Gaza remains an urgent global focus, as Israeli soldiers intensify operations in the enclave’s southern city of Rafah and a humanitarian crisis worsens by the day. Delegations from 22 Arab states met at Beijing’s Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, according to Chinese state media.

Later Thursday, Chinese and Arab-nation ministers adopted a strident joint statement condemning Israel’s “aggression against the Palestinian people” and in Rafah, according to the document as published by Chinese state media Friday.

The statement – which adopted some of China’s most pointed language to date on the conflict – decried what it described as a “deadly famine and blockade that has cut off all livelihoods” and “systematic” destruction of residential areas, hospitals, schools, mosques, churches and infrastructure in Gaza.

China, which has sought to deepen its relations across the Middle East in recent years, has positioned itself in alignment with the Arab world and the broader Global South on the nearly eight-month-long conflict, criticizing Israel and calling for a ceasefire.

Its stance has put it at odds with the United States, long a key power in the region and a primary backer of Israel. Chinese officials have used the conflict to hit out at Washington – fitting into a larger message from Beijing that frames the US as an aggressor unfairly dominating the current world order.

Xi in his remarks hailed a “common desire for a new era of China-Arab relations” and stated their relations could be a “model for maintaining world peace and stability”.

“In this turbulent world, peaceful relations come from mutual respect, and lasting security is built on fairness and justice,” added the Chinese leader, who has pushed for an alternative model for global security to the alliance-based one backed by the US.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, United Arab Emirates President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, and Tunisian President Kais Saied are in China for state visits that coincide with the ministerial meeting.

Israel declared war on Hamas in Gaza following the group’s October 7 attack that killed some 1,200 people and saw 250 taken hostage, according to Tel Aviv. More than 36,000 Palestinians have been killed since the start of Israeli military operations in the besieged enclave, according to its health ministry.

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