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China: Arab and Muslim ministerial delegation urges end to Gaza war

November 20, 2023 at 8:48 am

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi (front row 4rth R) poses for a group photo with Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud (front row 3rd L), Jordan’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi (front row 3rd R), Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (front row 2nd L), Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi (front row 2nd R), Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki (front row L), and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Secretary-General Hissein Brahim Taha (front row R) before a meeting of foreign ministers from Arab and Muslim-majority nations at the Diaoyutai State Guest House in Beijing on November 20, 2023. [PEDRO PARDO/AFP via Getty Images]

Arab and Muslim ministers called on Monday for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, as their delegation visited Beijing on the first leg of a tour to push for an end to hostilities and to allow humanitarian aid into the devastated Palestinian enclave. The delegation, reported Reuters, is set to meet officials representing each of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. It is also piling pressure on the West to reject Israel’s justification of its actions against Palestinians as “self-defence”.

The officials holding meetings with China’s top diplomat Wang Yi on Monday are from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Indonesia, Palestine and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, among others. “We are here to send a clear signal that we must immediately stop the fighting and the killings, we must immediately deliver humanitarian supplies to Gaza,” said Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal Bin Farhan Al-Saud.

The extraordinary joint Islamic-Arab summit in Riyadh this month also urged the International Criminal Court to investigate “war crimes and crimes against humanity that Israel is committing” in the Palestinian territories. Saudi Arabia has sought to press the US and Israel for an end to hostilities in Gaza, and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, gathered Arab and Muslim leaders to reinforce that message.

In comments posted by his ministry on X, Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry told his Chinese counterpart: “We look forward to a stronger role on the part of great powers such as China in order to stop the attacks against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Unfortunately, there are major countries that give cover to the current Israeli attacks.”

READ: Israeli army detains dozens, including women, journalists, in West Bank raids

About 240 hostages were taken during Hamas’s deadly cross-border raid on Israel on 7 October, which prompted Israel to invade the Gaza Strip with the intention of eradicating the Islamic Resistance Movement.

Officials in Gaza put the death toll at 13,000 Palestinians last night, including at least 5,500 children and 3,500 women.

Israeli ambassador to Beijing Irit Ben-Abba told foreign reporters at a briefing on Monday that she hoped there would not be “any statements from this visit about a ceasefire, now is not the time.” She said that Israel hoped that the delegation would talk about hostages captured by Hamas “and call for their immediate release without preconditions,” adding that the parties involved should talk together about Egypt’s “role in facilitating humanitarian assistance.” Observers have pointed out that Israel holds thousands of Palestinians with neither charge nor trial, with hundreds arrested in the occupied West Bank since 7 October.

Since the start of the latest round of hostilities — the issue didn’t start on 7 October; the Hamas raid took place in the context of 75 years of Israeli occupation and ethnic cleansing of Palestine and its people — China’s foreign ministry has repeatedly stopped short of condemning the resistance movement, calling instead for de-escalation and for Israel and Palestine to pursue a “two-state solution” for an independent Palestine.

China’s Wang said Beijing was a “good friend and brother of Arab and Muslim countries,” adding it has “always firmly supported the just cause of the Palestinian people to restore their legitimate national rights and interests.”

China’s special envoy on the Middle East, Zhai Jun, has engaged officials from Israel and the Palestinian Authority — which governs in the occupied West Bank — as well as the Arab League and EU in the last year to discuss a two-state solution and recognition for Palestine at the UN.

READ: Israeli helicopter opened fire on Israelis in festival during Hamas attack on October 7