October 16, 2023
BEIJING – Solution: Expert warns about spillover if conflict expands
Throughout the past week, Beijing has been working on intensive mediation of the Palestine-Israel conflict with major relevant players, including the United States and Saudi Arabia, to seek an early cease-fire and avert a major humanitarian disaster.
With an envoy from Beijing poised to embark on a mediation trip to the Middle East soon, China is faithfully fulfilling its constructive role as a responsible major country in a trustworthy and pragmatic way, observers said.
Zhai Jun, the Chinese government’s special envoy on the Middle East issue, said on Sunday that this week he will “visit some of the countries concerned in the Middle East to further strengthen coordination among various parties”.
“The direction of our work is to seek a cease-fire, protect civilians, de-escalate the situation and promote peace talks,” he said, warning that the conflict “is now expanding at an accelerated pace”.
When asked about the safety of Chinese citizens amid the conflict, Zhai confirmed that four Chinese citizens had been killed, two were still missing and six others who were injured were being treated at local hospitals.
The Palestine-Israel conflict stood out as a primary topic of Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s phone conversations on Saturday with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan.
In the phone conversation with Blinken, Wang emphasized that “major countries should remain objective, fair and calm, exercise restraint, and take the lead in abiding by international law” when dealing with international or regional hot spot issues.
The fundamental solution to the Palestinian question relies on the implementation of the two-state solution, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and the realization of peaceful coexistence between Palestine and Israel, said Wang, who is also a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.
Blinken said the US supports the “two-state solution” and is willing to strengthen communication and coordination with China.
In phone talks with Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Wang said all parties should refrain from escalating the situation and should return to the negotiation table as soon as possible, and China “is communicating intensively with various parties to seek a cease-fire”.
He said it is imperative to “make every effort to ensure the safety of the civilians, to establish humanitarian access as soon as possible and to secure the basic needs of the people in Gaza”, according to a statement on Sunday by the Foreign Ministry.
The Saudi foreign minister said that China “plays an important and fundamental role in promoting world peace and stability”, and Riyadh is ready to work with Beijing to make sure that various parties comply with international humanitarian law and fulfill the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions on the Palestinian question.
On Sunday, Wang also spoke by phone with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, saying that Islamic countries should boost unity over the Palestinian question and speak with one voice.
While meeting with European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell on Friday in Beijing and talking by phone with Chief Advisor of the Presidency of Brazil Celso Luiz Nunes Amorim on Thursday, Wang urged the global community to formulate a consensus based on the “two-state solution” at an early date.
Analysts noted that Beijing’s mediation efforts illustrate the nation’s respect for the “two-state solution”, which has been recognized by the global community and in UN Security Council resolutions, and its peacemaking philosophy aims to take care of the interests of various parties in a balanced and pragmatic way.
“While some parties or countries in the world are more focused on the complexity of the whole issue, what Beijing believes is that some progress and outcomes surely will be made with consistent efforts for advancing toward a reasonable goal,” said Su Xiaohui, an associate researcher at the China Institute of International Studies.
Beijing’s role in mediation should not be overlooked when examining the booming drive of reconciliation in the Arab world earlier this year, she said.
“China’s push for rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia is good evidence supporting the fact that a thorny issue could be eventually resolved if parties involved could move toward the same goal and create a benign, coolheaded atmosphere despite the enormous complexity of the contradictions,” Su said.
Niu Xinchun, director of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations’ Institute of Middle East Studies, warned that as the conflict expands, there is a possibility that it could spill over to areas outside the Gaza region.
“If the conflict expands into Lebanon or Syria, the volatility in the Middle East would be aggravated dramatically, creating a new dilemma for peace in the Middle East,” he said.