China has joined a number of Arab and majority Muslim countries in a fresh call for a ceasefire in Gaza, telling Israel it should stop the collective punishment of the people who live there. Foreign minister Wang Yi said the most urgent task was achieving an immediate ceasefire, warning against any attempt to drive Palestinians out of Gaza.
“China opposes any forced displacement and relocation of Palestinian civilians,” Mr Wang said. “Israel should stop collective punishment of the people of Gaza, open humanitarian corridors as soon as possible, and prevent a larger-scale humanitarian disaster.”
Mr Wang was addressing a delegation of foreign ministers and senior officials from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Indonesia, the Palestinian Authority and the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation. The delegation were in Beijing for a two-day visit at the start of a tour of the five permanent member states of the United Nations Security Council.
China’s president Xi Jinping and France’s president Emmanuel Macron discussed the war in Gaza during a phone call on Monday, agreeing that a two-state solution was the fundamental way to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
“The two heads of state exchanged views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and both believe that the top priority is to avoid further deterioration of the situation between Palestine and Israel, especially to avoid a more serious humanitarian crisis,” state broadcaster CCTV said.
Beijing has in recent years stepped up its engagement with Middle Eastern countries which are a major source of oil and gas for China and increasingly important trade partners. Last March, China brokered an agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, leading to the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries after seven years.
Mr Wang described China as “a good friend and brother of Arab and Islamic countries” which has always “firmly supported the just cause of the Palestinian people”. While the United States and some European countries have backed Israel’s campaign in Gaza, China has aligned its position with that of the Arab states in the region and has backed UN resolutions calling for a ceasefire.
Saudi foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, said the countries represented in the delegation wanted to work with China and all other countries that appreciate the seriousness of the situation in Gaza.
“The message is clear: the war must stop immediately, we must move to a ceasefire immediately, and relief materials and aid must enter immediately,” he said.
The UN Security Council last week passed its first resolution on the conflict in Gaza, calling for the immediate release of all hostages held by Hamas and for extended humanitarian pauses and corridors to protect civilians. The US, Russia and Britain abstained but the other 12 members voted in favour of the resolution.
“The international community must act urgently, taking effective measures to prevent this tragedy from spreading. China firmly stands with justice and fairness in this conflict,” Mr Wang said on Monday.