Palestinian envoy seeks role for China in Gaza conflict

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 November, 2012, 3:40pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 November, 2012, 8:07pm

China could play a “special role” in the Middle East, a Palestinian envoy said on Friday, following eight days of deadly conflict between Israel and militants in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

Bassam al-Salhi, a representative of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, was speaking after talks in Beijing on efforts to upgrade his people’s status at the United Nations and maintain calm in the region.

A ceasefire brokered by Egypt came into effect on Thursday in Gaza, which Abbas does not control.

Salhi, also general secretary of the Palestinian People’s Party, referred to China as a “broker” and a “mediator” after talks with Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.

He said Beijing could succeed where the United States failed in finding a solution to end hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians.

“We are very interested in the Chinese role in all the Middle East because all the Middle East needs more efforts from the international community,” he said.

“They want to be involved [in the Middle East] and we are interested in them being more involved.

“A special role [for] China is coming.”

Sali said China had expressed its support in Palestine’s bid to upgrade their status at the United Nations, and was giving them US$1 million in aid.

China is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and has backed the Palestinian push for full state membership of the organisation.

Beijing supports “stopping any kind of aggression from the Israelis against the Palestinian people,” Salhi told reporters. Chinese officials did not immediately comment.

The talks followed Gaza’s first day of calm after the fiercest fighting in years between Israel and Hamas militants. A ceasefire started on Wednesday ended eight days of airstrikes and artillery attacks by Israel and rocket attacks by Palestinian militants that killed 161 Palestinians and five Israelis.

China has increasingly played a more active diplomatic role in the Middle East. It recently announced its own four-point plan for a political solution to the Syrian conflict, although observers said it was vague and did not significantly add to past peace plans that have failed.

It has also called on the international community to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but not played an active role itself.

The country generally opposes what it calls intervention in the internal affairs of other nations.

Additional reporting Associated Press