Top foreign policy officials from the Palestinian Authority and four Muslim-majority countries will visit China on Monday and Tuesday, Beijing announced, as the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas claims thousands of civilian lives.
The visiting delegation is set to include the foreign ministers of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and Indonesia, as well as the secretary-general of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
“During the visit, China will have in-depth communication and coordination with the joint delegation of foreign ministers of Arab and Islamic countries to promote a de-escalation of the current Palestinian-Israeli conflict, protecting civilians, and justly resolving the Palestinian issue,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said in a statement on Sunday.
Israel has vowed to destroy Gaza’s rulers Hamas over the October 7 attacks that it says killed 1,200 people and saw 240 hostages taken, in the worst-ever onslaught on the country.
In Gaza, the Hamas government says 12,300 people have been killed in Israel’s relentless aerial bombardment and ground operations.
Most of the casualties on both sides are civilians.
Following the outbreak of the war last month, Chinese officials, including Foreign Minister Wang Yi, have called for an immediate ceasefire and a “cooling down” of the situation.
China has historically been sympathetic to the Palestinians and supported a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Last month, Wang spoke with the Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki, telling him Beijing “deeply expresses its sympathy with the Palestinian side”.
The PA was meant to be a first step towards an independent Palestinian state.
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But it has little authority over the West Bank and none over Gaza, where it was violently ousted by Hamas in 2007.
The delegation is set to arrive in China days after US President Joe Biden argued that the coastal territory of Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank should come under a single “revitalised” administration.
“As we strive for peace, Gaza and the West Bank should be reunited under a single governance structure, ultimately under a revitalised Palestinian Authority,” he wrote in the Washington Post.
Qatar has helped broker talks aiming to free some of the 240 hostages held by Hamas in return for a temporary ceasefire, an effort that has so far led to the release of four hostages.
The White House has denied a Washington Post report of a tentative agreement.
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Qatar later said the deal hinges on “minor” practical issues, but did not provide details or a timeline.
China has criticised US support for Israel and denounced the veto of a UN Security Council resolution by the United States, which wanted a call for Israel’s right to defend itself.
Beijing’s diplomatic presence in the Middle East has grown in recent years, as it makes efforts to play peacemaker in a range of longstanding regional disputes.
This year, China brokered a deal that saw longtime rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran agree to restore ties and reopen their respective embassies.
Washington has said it hopes China’s relationship with Hamas-backer Iran could help calm the conflict, particularly after Beijing’s role in the detente between Tehran and Riyadh.