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China’s Xi to deal with Arab leaders searching for ‘not unusual voice’ on Gaza


Chinese President Xi Jinping will on Thursday address Arab leaders and diplomats at a forum in Beijing, seeking to deepen ties with the region and speak with a “common voice” on the conflict in Gaza.

China’s capital is this week hosting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and several other Arab leaders for a forum in which the war between Israel and Hamas is expected to be front and centre.

Beijing has good relations with Israel but has supported the Palestinian cause for decades and campaigned for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Meeting Sisi on Wednesday, Xi said he was “deeply pained” by the “extremely severe” situation in Gaza, where the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry now says 36,171 people, mostly civilians, have been killed.

“The top priority task now is an immediate ceasefire, in order to avoid spillover of conflict, impact on regional peace and stability, and… to prevent a more serious humanitarian crisis,” the Chinese leader said.

He said China was ready to work with Egypt to continue to assist the people of Gaza “and push for an early, comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the Palestinian issue”.

In recent years, Beijing has sought to build closer ties with Arab states and brokered a detente between Tehran and its long-time foe Saudi Arabia last year.

Beijing also hosted rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah last month for “in-depth and candid talks on promoting intra-Palestinian reconciliation”.

United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan is among a host of regional leaders and diplomats attending this week’s forum.

Beijing has said Xi’s keynote speech at the opening ceremony on Thursday will be aimed at building “common consensus” between China and Arab states.

And analysts say Beijing can leverage the war in Gaza to boost its standing in the region, framing its efforts to end that conflict against perceived US inaction.

“Beijing sees the ongoing conflict as a golden opportunity to criticize the West’s double standards on the international scene and call for an alternative global order,” Camille Lons, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told AFP.

“When speaking about the war in Gaza, it speaks… to a wider audience, and frames the conflict around the opposition between the West and the Global South,” she added.



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