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Print Edition> World
UPDATED: May 20, 2013 NO. 21 MAY 23, 2013
Persisting Toward Peace
Beijing is willing and able to help reengage deadlocked peace talks between Israel and Palestine
By Ding Ying

MIDEAST DIPLOMACY: Chinese President Xi Jinping welcomes visiting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Beijing on May 6 (LIU WEIBING)

Beijing rolled out the red carpet for the leaders of two long-standing foes in early May. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas conducted his three-day visit to China on May 5, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Shanghai one day later for his five-day visit. Although no specific result in terms of the peaceful talk between Israelis and Palestinians was released, observers say it is encouraging that China is willing to provide an opportunity and a helping hand on the stagnant Middle East peace process.

"If Israeli and Palestinian leaders conducted talks in a third country, it will make for a huge breakthrough in the peace process. But the time is not yet mature," said Li Shaoxian, Vice President of the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS).

He stressed that the two leaders' China visits in the same period were significant. There are very few countries having enough capability and influence to invite leaders from the two opposing sides at the same time. "Abbas' and Netanyahu's visits definitely reflected China's increasing diplomatic strength," Li added.

Abbas' visit was his first to China as the Palestinian president, and he was also the first Middle Eastern head of state to visit China after Xi Jinping assumed the Chinese presidency in March. Netanyahu's visit immediately followed his trip to the United States.

With the two leaders' visits overlapping for two days, they had no scheduled meeting in China. But their visits surely proved that China, as one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council, attempted to facilitate the resumption of peace talks between Palestine and Israel following a four-year deadlock.

Professor Yan Xuetong at Tsinghua University concluded that there are two implications of China inviting the two leaders for simultaneous visits: First, China is willing to play a bigger role in international security issues, and second, it hopes to prevent military conflict in the Middle East from further escalation.

During a meeting with Abbas, Xi proposed for the peaceful settlement of the Middle East issue, saying negotiation should be taken as the only way to peace between Palestine and Israel and principles such as "land for peace" should be firmly upheld.

Abbas said that he appreciates China's objective stance on the Palestine issue, and expects China to continue playing an important role.

Although having no arrangement on meeting with Netanyahu in China, Abbas said he was glad that China has been maintaining connections with Israel and Palestine at the same time. The Palestinian president also expressed hope that China would get the opportunity to hear from both sides during the visits, and deliver Palestine's appeal to the Israeli side.

Netanyahu also appreciated China's efforts when meeting with Chinese leaders, saying Israel would like to keep in touch with China on the peace talk-related developments.

Qu Xing, President of the CIIS, pointed out that the two leaders' China visits were intentionally arranged that way by the host. He explained that China has been keeping good relationship with Israel, Palestine and even the whole Arab world, and it has been actively bringing the two sides back to the negotiating table. "As China's influence is on the rise, it can do more to ease tensions in the Middle East. If the Palestinian and Israeli leaders trust China to pass on certain messages, China will be very glad to carry out the favor to encourage the resumption of the Middle East peace process."

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