China’s Xi requests a peace meeting in the Middle East

China’s Xi requests a peace meeting in the Middle East

TAIPEI: Chinese President Xi Jinping called for an international peace conference focused on the Israel-Hamas war and promised more humanitarian aid as he opened a summit with leaders of Arab states Thursday in Beijing.
“As war is raging causing tremendous suffering, justice can’t be absent and the two-state solution can’t be shaken,” Xi said in a speech opening the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum.
He called on Arab states to deepen cooperation in areas such as trade, clean energy, space exploration and health care.
The summit attended by heads of state from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Tunisia among others was set to focus on China’s expanding trade ties and on security concerns related to the Israel-Hamas war.
Beijing and the Arab states back the Palestinians in the conflict, where Israel is facing growing international condemnation after the strike in the southern Gaza city of Rafah in which at least 45 were killed over the weekend. The overall Palestinian death toll in the war exceeds 36,000, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.
Beijing has long backed the Palestinians and denounced Israel over its settlements in the occupied territories. It has not criticized the initial Hamas attack on Oct. 7 — which killed about 1,200 people — while the United States and others have called it an act of terrorism. However, China does have growing economic ties with Israel.
“China’s priorities in the region are primarily economic,” said Maria Papageorgiou, a lecturer in politics and international relations at University of Exeter. “It wants to continue the momentum established in recent years with Gulf states and expand its investments, particularly in trade, technology (5G networks), and other cyber initiatives.”
Additionally, China wants to present itself as an alternative to the West and a more credible partner to the region, one that doesn’t interfere in the nations’ domestic affairs nor exert pressure, Papageorgiou said.
Present at the forum is Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, who met Xi on Wednesday. The two leaders signed a series of cooperation agreements in areas such as infrastructure, technology and food imports meant to further their countries’ ties.
China has invested billions of dollars in Egyptian state projects, including a Suez Canal economic zone and a new administrative capital east of Cairo. Investments between Egypt and China amounted to around $14 billion in 2023, compared to $16.6 billion in 2022, according to Egypt’s statistics agency.
Also at the forum are Tunisia’s President Kais Saied, Emirati President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Bahrain King Hamad.
The China-Arab States Cooperation Forum was established in 2004 as a formal dialogue mechanism between China and Arab states.
China is Tunisia’s fourth-largest trading partner after Germany, Italy and France. Beijing has financed hospitals and sports complexes in Tunisia, and its companies have been contracted to build strategic infrastructure such as bridges and deep-water Mediterranean ports.

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