Despite years of faltering attempts to broker peace between Israelis and Palestinians, the United States is the only country capable of bringing about a deal, analysts say. Debate has been stirred by Jordan's King Abdullah, who left Hong Kong on Monday after a five-day visit to China. He told officials that Beijing should get more involved in Middle East peace negotiations. President Jiang Zemin told the king that China wanted stronger ties with Arab countries to help promote dialogue between the foes. New York-based Middle East analyst and commentator Fawaz Gerges says involvement of countries other than the US in negotiating has long been a theme among Arab states. China, Russia and European nations had been suggested, but little resolve was shown by the Arab countries or from the nations named. 'While rhetorically the Arab states advocate a more active role for China, Russia and the European states, the Arab states seem to be obsessed with the American role,' said Professor Gerges, who teaches international studies and Middle Eastern affairs at Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University. 'Even American and European officials tell you that the Arab states prefer the Americans to play a preponderant role for a variety of reasons. Simply, it's the US, after all, which can really exert pressure on Israel to make the necessary conditions for a viable solution.' This, said Professor Gerges, was the ultimate contradiction in the Arab position and he had become sceptical about calls by them for international mediation. 'On the one hand they scream that the US is biased and on the other, when the chips are down, they tend to depend and rely on the Americans for any breakthrough,' he said. Russia has occasionally ventured into the Middle East fray. It helped bring the Israelis and Palestinians together in 1993 to sign the Oslo peace accord, which guaranteed a Palestinian state. China is often seen as an ally of the Arab world, but it has confined its comment during the latest flare-up between the Israelis and Palestinians to calls for restraint. It has built up strong economic ties with some Middle Eastern nations through oil imports, but relations with Israel have soured over a defence deal. China is demanding compensation over the US$250 million (HK$2 billion) Phalcon airborne radar system, which Israel cancelled in July 2000 on orders from the US. Professor Gerges says the peace process would benefit from China's involvement, but it should not have any illusions about its ability to compete with Washington. 'I don't think the Israelis trust the Chinese or that the Americans would like them to play a major role,' he said. Beijing analyst Chen Shuanqing, a professor at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, doubts China would want to get drawn into mediation. 'I don't think China has the willingness to get involved because the process is so complicated,' he said. China was more interested in an economic role in the Middle East with a focus on its regional neighbours. Israeli academic Gerald Steinberg also denied China could salvage the process. The Bar Ilan University professor called King Abdullah's call for Chinese involvement 'naive'. 'I don't think China has anything to bring to the table,' he said. 'The problems are so deep that any kind of successful mediation after so many years of attempting it is going to require tremendous societal change.'