Sat, 02 Dec 2023

Arab and Muslim officials holding meetings with China's top diplomat Wang Yi in Beijing on Monday called for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and for allowing humanitarian aid into the war-shattered Palestinian enclave.

A delegation of ministers from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Indonesia, the Palestinian Authority and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, among others, visited Beijing on the first leg of a tour in world capitals urging an end to the hostilities in Gaza.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the foreign diplomats that their decision to start in Beijing shows their high level of trust in his nation.

'China is a good friend and brother of Arab and Islamic countries,' Wang said in opening remarks at a state guest house before their talks began. 'We have always firmly safeguarded the legitimate rights and interests of Arab [and] Islamic countries and have always firmly supported the just cause of the Palestinian people.'

China - the world's second-largest economy after the U.S. - has been a longtime supporter of the Palestinians and has been quick to denounce Israel over its settlements in the occupied territories. Beijing has not publicly condemned the initial Hamas attack on October 7, while the United States and others have called it 'an act of terrorism.'

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, right, shakes hands with Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud at the Diaoyutai state guesthouse in Beijing, Nov. 20, 2023. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, right, shakes hands with Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud at the Diaoyutai state guesthouse in Beijing, Nov. 20, 2023.

However, China does have growing economic ties with Israel.

China's President Xi Jinping will attend a video summit of BRICS leaders Tuesday on the Palestinian-Israeli issue, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

In comments posted by his ministry on X, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told his Chinese counterpart, 'We look forward to a stronger role on the part of great powers such as China in order to stop the attacks against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Unfortunately, there are major countries that give cover to the current Israeli attacks.'

Israeli ambassador to Beijing Irit Ben-Abba told foreign reporters at a briefing Monday that she hoped there would not be 'any statements from this visit about a cease-fire, now is not the time,' she said.

She noted that her country is allowing sufficient humanitarian aid into Gaza in collaboration with international organizations and that 'putting pressure on Israel in this regard is politically motivated and is not conducive to the humanitarian assistance which is needed.'

'This isn't Israel's first war against the Palestinian people,' said Riyad Al-Maliki, the Palestinian Authority foreign minister. 'However, Israel wants this to be its last war, where it takes full control of the Palestinian people's presence on what's left of the historical land of Palestine.'

The Israeli ambassador said she hoped the delegation would talk about hostages captured by Hamas 'and call for their immediate release without preconditions,' adding that the parties involved should talk together about Egypt's 'role in facilitating humanitarian assistance.'

The delegation will also meet with officials from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and is putting pressure on the West to reject Israel's justification of its actions against Palestinians as self-defense.

'We are here to send a clear signal, that is, we must immediately stop the fighting and the killings, we must immediately deliver humanitarian supplies to Gaza,' said Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud.

He added they appreciated the resolution issued by the United Nations Security Council, calling for urgent and extended humanitarian pauses in Gaza, 'but we still need more efforts and cooperation.'

The joint Islamic-Arab summit held in Riyadh earlier this month, organized by Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also urged the International Criminal Court to investigate 'war crimes and crimes against humanity that Israel is committing' in the Palestinian territories.

Israel began its military campaign to wipe out Hamas after Hamas fighters crossed into southern Israel on October 7. Israel said 1,200 people were killed and some 240 captives taken in the terror attack. Gaza health officials say at least 13,000 Palestinians, including 5,000 children, have been confirmed killed in Israel's military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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