China Hosts Mideast Diplomats to Discuss Israel-Hamas War

(Bloomberg) -- China hosted senior officials from mostly Middle Eastern nations on Monday for “in-depth” talks on deescalating the Israel-Hamas conflict, as Beijing tries to bolster its credentials as a global peacemaker.

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Top foreign policy officials from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority were among those who visited Beijing.

The delegation, led by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, aims to visit Russia and the other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — France, the UK and the US — afterwards, according to Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, secretary-general of the Arab League.

The discussions in China were about “immediately stopping the military escalation” in Gaza and “delivering the necessary humanitarian aid to avoid the spread of the humanitarian catastrophe” there, according to Saudi state media.

The officials also reiterated calls for a two-state solution to achieve a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the international community must “take effective and credible measures to stop the tragedies from going any further” in Gaza.

“We would welcome China playing a constructive role in the Middle East,” US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said. He said Secretary of State Antony Blinken had called Wang during a trip to the region “and said if there’s anything they can do to prevent the conflict from widening, in terms of using the lines of communications that they have available to countries in the Middle East, we would welcome that.”

Egypt’s top diplomat, Sameh Shoukry, said Arab and Islamic nations are hoping “great powers” like China will assume a bigger role in dealing with the crisis. That’s needed because “there are, unfortunately, major nations that provide cover for the current Israeli attacks,” he said, according to a statement from the Foreign Ministry.

He renewed Egypt’s rejection of what he called a declared policy to displace Palestinians from Gaza.

“The Americans have been standing with the Israelis over the last 40 days or so in a manner that’s unprecedented,” Aboul-Gheit of the Arab League said in remarks delivered at a security conference in Bahrain over the weekend.

Read More: Hostage Talks Progress as Israel-Hamas Fighting Grips Gaza

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and other Arab states are increasingly critical of Israel as it conducts a war against Hamas in Gaza. The militant group attacked Israel on Oct. 7 from Gaza, killing 1,200 people. Israel’s since bombarded the Palestinian territory and launched a ground offensive, which the Hamas-run health ministry says has killed more than 13,000 people.

Hamas is designated a terrorist organization by the US and European Union.

China has been trying to portray itself as a force for peace in the Middle East since March, when it helped broker a detente between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Beijing also hosted Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in June, some four months before Hamas attacked Israel.

During that visit, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed an international peace conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. China has in recent weeks reiterated its desire for an independent Palestinian state and called for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Read More: US, EU Back UN Force in Postwar Gaza, Adding Pressure on Israel

Nicholas Burns, the US’s top diplomat in China, last month urged Beijing to denounce terrorism by Hamas, and cited its stance toward the group as yet another challenge in ties between the world’s biggest economies.

Last month, a US delegation to Beijing led by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer asked China to use its links with Iran to try to keep the fighting in Gaza from spreading.

Read More: A Saudi-Israeli Peace Deal? Who Wants What and Why: QuickTake

--With assistance from Tarek El-Tablawy.

(Updates with US comment in 7th paragraph.)

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