Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has restated China’s position that Israel must prioritize the protection of civilians even as it defends itself in the ongoing conflict with Hamas. This message comes during high-level communication with both Israeli and Palestinian officials, marking a significant development in China’s stance on the matter.
In a telephone call with Israeli counterpart Eli Cohen, Wang emphasized that every country has the right to self-defense but should do so in compliance with international humanitarian law and by taking measures to safeguard civilians. He stressed the importance of preventing further escalation of the conflict, which could lead to a worsening humanitarian crisis.
In a separate call with Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, Wang expressed China’s deep sympathy for the challenging situation faced by the Palestinian people, particularly those in Gaza. He assured the Palestinian side that China would continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza.
It’s noteworthy that these calls mark the highest-level communication China has publicly acknowledged with both Israeli and Palestinian officials since the conflict erupted on October 7th when Hamas launched an attack. China has refrained from explicitly condemning Hamas, despite the significant loss of civilian lives resulting from the incursion.
Israel responded to the attack with airstrikes on Gaza, causing further casualties, and generating growing concern among global leaders about the potential for the conflict to escalate. Earlier this month, in a conversation with Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat, Wang criticized Israel’s actions, stating that they had gone beyond self-defense and called on the nation to heed the United Nations’ and international community’s calls to halt collective punishment of the people in Gaza.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has also called for an immediate ceasefire, underlining China’s commitment to seeking a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
The ongoing crisis in Gaza is likely to be a key topic of discussion when Wang visits Washington later this week for high-level meetings. Wang’s visit to the United States includes meetings with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, as confirmed by senior Biden administration officials.
These discussions are part of an effort to responsibly manage US-China relations, which have faced challenges on multiple fronts, including issues related to spying, Taiwan, and technology. It remains to be seen whether this meeting will pave the way for a potential summit between President Biden and President Xi in San Francisco next month.
In response to growing criticism, including from U.S. congressional leaders, China has reiterated its stance that it condemns actions harming civilians and expressed its willingness to work with the international community towards peace talks. It’s important to note that the United States and Europe have designated Hamas as a terrorist organization.
Notably, earlier this year, President Xi sought to play a role as a global peacemaker by proposing a ceasefire in Ukraine and facilitating diplomatic reconciliation between long-time rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran. He also suggested the idea of an Israel-Palestine peace conference. As the conflict in Gaza continues, China’s diplomatic engagement in the region will remain closely watched by the international community.