China ready to broker Israel-Palestine peace talks, says foreign minister

AFP  /  April 18, 2023

China is positioning itself as a regional mediator after brokering the restoration of ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

China’s foreign minister told his Israeli and Palestinian counterparts his country is ready to help facilitate peace talks, state media reported.

The separate phone calls between Chinese foreign minister, Qin Gang, and the Israeli and Palestinian top diplomats comes amid recent moves by Beijing to position itself as a regional mediator.

Qin encouraged “steps to resume peace talks,” and said that “China is ready to provide convenience for this,” in a Monday phone call with Israeli foreign minister Eli Cohen, state media agency Xinhua reported.

In his conversation with Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki, Qin is reported to have said that Beijing supports the resumption of talks as soon as possible.

In both calls he emphasised China’s push for peace talks on the basis of implementing a “two-state solution,” Xinhua said.

The talks come at a time of rising tensions in Israel. Clashes at the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem earlier this month drew condemnation from Arab countries across the region. Saudi Arabia, with whom Israel hopes to normalise ties, said Israel’s “storming” of al-Aqsa undermined peace efforts.

This year’s overlap of Ramadan and Passover increases the possibility of friction as the city hosts an unusually large influx of pilgrims.

Qin is reported to have told his Israeli counterpart that China is “concerned about the current tension between Israel and Palestine, and the current top priority is to bring the situation under control and prevent the conflict from escalating or even getting out of control.”

China has been on a recent diplomatic offensive, brokering the restoration of ties in March between Iran and Saudi Arabia – rivals in a region where the United States for decades has been the main diplomatic powerbroker.

“Saudi Arabia and Iran recently restored diplomatic relations through dialogue, setting a good example of overcoming differences through dialogue,” Qin said.

That deal is likely to have major ramifications on the Yemen Civil War, where both sides are locked in a proxy war.

In February, Beijing produced a peace plan for Ukraine after talks between president Xi Jinping and Russsia’s Vladimir Putin. It urged all parties to avoid nuclear escalation but critically did not suggest Russia withdraw its forces.

While western leaders largely dismissed the proposal, Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskiy cautiously welcomed the plan, but said it would only be acceptable if it led to Putin pulling his troops out from all occupied Ukrainian territory.