China's Xi calls for Middle East peace conference

AFP , Thursday 30 May 2024

Chinese President Xi Jinping called on Thursday for a peace conference on the war in Gaza, as he addressed Arab leaders at a forum aimed at bolstering ties with the region.

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech at the opening ceremony of the 10th ministerial meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing Thursday, May 30, 2024. AP


Xi is this week hosting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Emirati President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and several other Arab leaders.

China has positioned itself as a more neutral actor on the Israel-Palestinian conflict than its rival the United States, advocating for a two-state solution while also maintaining good ties with Israel.

China has pointed to the Middle East as a key node in its Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, a central pillar of Xi's bid to expand his country's clout overseas.

Addressing delegates, Xi on Thursday expressed support for a "broad-based" peace conference to resolve the conflict in Gaza.

"The Middle East is a land bestowed with broad prospects for development, but the war is still raging on it," Xi said.

"War should not continue indefinitely. Justice should not be absent forever," he added.

 'Golden opportunity' 



China has advocated for decades for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

On Thursday, Xi hailed his "deep sense of affinity" with the Arab world.

"Friendship between China and Chinese people and Arab countries and peoples originates from friendly exchanges along the ancient Silk Road," he said.

State media has reported that 21 Arab nations have signed cooperation agreements with Beijing as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.

"China will further enhance strategic cooperation with the Arab side on oil and gas, and integrate supply security with market security," Xi said, according to a readout of his speech by the foreign ministry.

"China is ready to work with the Arab side on new energy technology R&D and equipment production," he added.

China has worked to position itself as a mediator in the region, last year brokering a detente between Saudi Arabia and its long-time foe Iran.

Last month, it hosted rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah last month for "in-depth and candid talks on promoting intra-Palestinian reconciliation".

Analysts say China is seeking to leverage the war in Gaza to boost its standing in the region, framing its efforts to end that conflict against perceived US inaction.

"Beijing sees the ongoing conflict as a golden opportunity to criticise the West's double standards on the international scene and call for an alternative global order," Camille Lons, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told AFP.

"When speaking about the war in Gaza, it speaks... to a wider audience, and frames the conflict around the opposition between the West and the Global South," she added.

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