China sends mediator to Israel and Palestine for talks on Gaza ceasefire

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 July, 2014, 10:36pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 July, 2014, 10:36pm

China has sent its special envoy on Middle East affairs, Wu Sike, to Israel and the Palestinian territories to mediate the conflict there, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He will also visit other countries in the region.

Wu is seeking ways to ease tensions in the area and urge both sides to agree an immediate ceasefire, according to Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei.

Xiao Xian, an international relations expert at Yunnan University, said China had previously been keeping an eye on the Palestine-Israel situation in a low-profile manner. But recently Beijing became more open in its efforts.

On Tuesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Ming met the Palestinian ambassador to China, Ahmad Ramadan, and Dana Benvenisti from the Israeli embassy to express deep concern about the conflict.

Zhang later called for a peaceful settlement of the conflict during a meeting with ambassadors from several Arab states and Arab League representative Ghanim Taha Ahmed al-Shibli, according to the Foreign Ministry.

"On one hand, both Israel and Palestine need China [to mediate]; on the other hand, China wants to play a role in the Middle East too, to gain a stronger voice in the peace process and guarantee the state's energy interests," Xiao said.

Li Guofu , a Middle East researcher at the China Institute of International Studies, said the country should take a more active role in the region.

He said China "does not want to see a change in the status quo among different countries in the region because of the Israel-Palestine conflict".

Additional reporting by Keith Zhai

Pelted with shoes and eggs, minister feels wrath of the Gaza Strip

Palestinian health minister Jawad Awad cancelled a trip to Gaza City's Shifa hospital after being confronted by angry protesters as he arrived from Egypt, officials said.

Witnesses said shoes and eggs were thrown at Awad's car as he entered Gaza through the Rafah border crossing. Officials said he left the Palestinian territory shortly afterwards.

Protesters also gathered at the hospital carrying posters criticising Awad and the recently formed unity government of technocrats to which he belongs.

The government was sworn in on June 2 following a unity deal between the Hamas movement and president Mahmoud Abbas which ended seven years of rival administrations in the West Bank and Gaza.

"Gaza has been bombed, and Gaza has been destroyed, and now he comes to visit?" protester Ahmed Murtaja said. "We don't want this visit and all the Palestinian people are opposed to it and reject it."

Protesters said they were angry it had taken Awad eight days to visit Gaza since Israeli air strikes began. They also condemned the Palestinian president for failing to do more to halt the Israeli bombing, with some chanting: "Abu Mazen [Abbas] is a collaborator."

In a statement, the health ministry condemned the "flagrant and brutal assault" on the minister in Rafah, blaming the incident on "media affiliated with Hamas".

Although the reconciliation agreement has held, resentment remains between Hamas and the West Bank leadership.

Agence France-Presse