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China’s Mideast envoy urges Palestinian guarantees, won’t name Hamas


Aftermath of an Israeli strike in Khan Younis

Palestinians search for casualties at the site of an Israeli strike on a house during the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip October 19, 2023. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem Acquire Licensing Rights

BEIJING, Oct 20 (Reuters) – China’s special Mideast envoy pinned the cause of the Israel-Gaza crisis on the lack of guarantees for Palestinian rights as he met with his Russian counterpart in Qatar, a go-between in the conflict.

In the first leg of his tour in the region, China’s envoy for Middle East issues Zhai Jun landed in Qatar on Thursday where he reaffirmed with his Russian counterpart Mikhail Bogdanov Beijing’s alignment with Moscow in their efforts to help de-escalate the Gaza crisis.

China and Russia share the same position on the Palestinian issue, Zhai was quoted as saying after meeting with Bogdanov in Doha, a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks with President Xi Jinping in a rare meeting in Beijing.

“The fundamental reason for the current situation in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is that the legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people have not been guaranteed,” Zhai said, without referring to the Gaza-based militant group Hamas.

On Oct. 7, Hamas gunmen stormed into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip, killing at least 1,400 people. In response, Israel has retaliated with air strikes, putting the Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million people under siege.

A week later, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, while condemning “all acts that harm civilians” without naming Hamas, declared that “Israel’s actions have gone beyond the scope of self-defence.”

Nicholas Burns, the U.S. ambassador to China, told Bloomberg Television on Thursday the United States and China had differing views on the Israel-Hamas war.

“We do not have identical views on this particular position,” Burns said, when asked whether he saw the Mideast tensions as a chance to improve Sino-U.S. ties.

‘ROOT CAUSES’

The crisis has put China and Russia in separate camps from the United States. President Joe Biden said he would seek extra funding, estimated to be in the billions, to help Israel fight Hamas.

Russia, which has ties with Iran, the Hamas militant group, major Arab powers as well as with the Palestinians and Israel, has repeatedly said the United States and the West have ignored the need for an independent Palestinian state within 1967 borders.

A Brazil-drafted U.N. Security Council resolution that called for a humanitarian ceasefire failed to pass on Wednesday, with the United States vetoing the resolution. A Russian-drafted resolution that called for a humanitarian ceasefire also failed to pass on Monday.

“The biased attitude of the U.S. is one of the root causes of the long-standing Palestine issue, and it acts as a catalyst for escalating the conflict when it erupts,” China’s nationalist tabloid, Global Times, wrote in an editorial.

In Qatar, Zhai said China was ready to maintain communication and coordination with Russia in an effort to calm the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

The tiny Gulf state of Qatar has been an essential stopover for foreign diplomats including U.S. State Secretary Antony Blinken seeking to mediate in the Israel-Gaza conflict in recent days, having direct communication channels with Hamas, which has had a political office in Doha for more than a decade.

Reporting by Liz Lee and Ryan Woo; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman, Stephen Coates and Lincoln Feast and Miral Fahmy

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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