Palestine ambassador acknowledges China's peace role in Middle East

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 July, 2014, 4:10am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 July, 2014, 12:54pm

The Palestinian ambassador to China said Beijing is playing an increasingly important role in the Middle East peace process - as a special Chinese envoy headed to Israel and the Palestinian territories to broker a truce.

Ahmad Ramadan said a stronger involvement by Beijing in seeking a resolution to the Palestine-Israel conflict was in line with China's broader interests, as it expanded its political and economic influence in the region.

"China is a big player ... it has a big interest in the region, not only economically but also politically," Ramadan said. "I think China will try to position itself as an important player in this coming period."

A spokesman for the Israeli embassy in Beijing commented on China’s role in the conflict.

“We think the relations China has both with Israel and Arab countries can be very valuable and be an important factor,” the spokesman said. “China fully supported the Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire, and the Israeli side approved. But this ceasefire was unfortunately rejected by the Hamas. We really hope that with the efforts of China and the international community, we can get a ceasefire and a complete stop to acts of terrorism.”

The spokesman added that Hamas is “solely responsible for the escalation”.

“The ground operation that the Israelis started was in response to Hamas’ increasing gunfire during the ceasefire,” the spokesman said.

Israel had agreed to halt military operations for five hours yesterday to allow the United Nations to facilitate the transfer of aid to Palestinians living in Gaza. The death toll on the Palestinian side by Wednesday, after nine days of fighting, exceeded 200.

China ... has a big interest in the region, not only economically but also politically
Ahmad Ramadan

China's special envoy on Middle East affairs, Wu Sike, is meeting leaders on both sides, as well as visiting other countries in the region in a bid to ease tensions.

Speaking ahead of the trip, Wu said China always opposed violence against civilians and called on both sides to settle the disputes through talks. On Tuesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Ming held talks with Ramadan and Dana Benvenisti, deputy chief of mission from the Israeli embassy, and representatives of Arabic states.

Ramadan said Zhang asked him to convey that the Palestinians should stop launching rockets against Israel, but also said Israel should stop its aggression.

Chinese officials said Beijing would seek a wider ceasefire brokered at international level.

"This is the opinion of China, that the only way to solve this conflict is through peaceful means and direct negotiation between Israel and Palestine," Ramadan said.

Last May Beijing hosted coinciding visits by Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. China proposed a meeting between the two, to which Abbas agreed, but the talks never took place. "China has the intention to play an effective role in the region," Ramadan said. "But there are obstacles."

In his talks with Abbas, President Xi Jinping said China supported the peaceful co-existence of the Palestinian territories and Israel, and an independent Palestinian state enjoying full sovereignty on the basis of the 1967 borders.

Observers said China had become more open in its diplomacy in the region as it did not want the conflict to affect other countries in the Middle East.