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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Xi Jinping calls for peace conference to resolve Israel-Palestine conflict

Xi pledged significant humanitarian aid, announcing an additional 500 million yuan ($69 million) in emergency assistance to Gaza.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for an international peace conference to address the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict and alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Speaking at the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum in Beijing, Xi emphasized that Israel’s war on Gaza “should not continue indefinitely” and that “justice should not be absent forever.” His remarks came amidst escalating violence in Gaza, with Israel intensifying its military operations in the region, particularly around the strategic Philadelphi Corridor on the Egypt-Gaza border.

Humanitarian Assistance and Diplomatic Moves

Xi pledged significant humanitarian aid, announcing an additional 500 million yuan ($69 million) in emergency assistance to Gaza. He also committed $3 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) to support its emergency efforts in Gaza. This move aligns with China’s broader strategy of increasing its diplomatic influence in the Middle East, following its recent success in mediating between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and hosting talks between Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah in April.

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Strengthening China-Arab Relations

Addressing leaders from Bahrain, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Tunisia, Xi framed China’s engagement in the Middle East as part of a broader effort to foster global peace and stability. He reiterated China’s support for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict and called for Palestinian membership in the United Nations, positions that resonate with many Arab nations.

Xi’s speech underscored the importance of mutual respect, fairness, and justice in international relations. He highlighted China’s commitment to working with Arab nations on various fronts, including energy cooperation and investment in renewable energy projects, which are crucial for the region’s development.

Critique of Western Policies

China’s stance on the Gaza conflict and its call for an international peace conference come as a critique of Western, particularly US, policies in the region. Analysts suggest that Beijing views the ongoing conflict as an opportunity to highlight perceived Western double standards and to promote an alternative global order. Camille Lons, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, noted that China’s actions aim to boost its standing in the Middle East by contrasting its proactive approach with what it sees as US inaction.

Broader Implications for the Middle East

China’s increased involvement in Middle Eastern affairs reflects its strategic interest in the region, particularly as a major consumer of Gulf energy. In 2023, bilateral trade between China and the Gulf reached $286.9 billion, with Saudi Arabia accounting for nearly 40% of that trade. Xi committed to further cooperation in the oil and gas sectors, as well as larger-scale investments in renewable energy projects.

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The diplomatic efforts at the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum also included a joint statement condemning Israel’s actions in Gaza and calling for an end to the blockade and systematic destruction in the region. This strong stance aligns China more closely with Arab nations and the broader Global South, positioning it as a leading voice in advocating for a just resolution to the conflict.