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Xi Jinping Calls for Independent Palestinian State, Promises Aid to Gaza at China-Arab Summit

By: ATN News

Beijing: Chinese President Xi Jinping renewed his call for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and pledged increased humanitarian aid for Gaza as he inaugurated a summit with leaders of Arab states on Thursday. The event, held in Beijing, marked the opening of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum.

"Since last October, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has escalated drastically, throwing people into tremendous suffering,” Xi stated in his opening speech. "War should not continue indefinitely." He emphasized the need for an international peace conference to address the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

Xi announced China’s commitment to providing 500 million yuan ($69 million) in humanitarian assistance for Gaza and an additional $3 million to a United Nations agency supporting refugees affected by the conflict. This move comes amid growing international condemnation of Israel, following a recent strike in Rafah, Gaza, which resulted in the deaths of at least 45 people. The overall Palestinian death toll has surpassed 36,000, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

Historically, Beijing has supported the Palestinian cause and criticized Israeli settlements in occupied territories. However, it has refrained from condemning the October 7 Hamas attack that killed approximately 1,200 Israelis, which the United States and other nations have labeled a terrorist act. Despite this, China maintains significant economic ties with Israel.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who also addressed the forum, lauded China’s stance on calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and the creation of an independent Palestinian state. "I call on all active actors of the international community to assume their moral and legal responsibilities to stop the outrageous Israeli war," el-Sissi urged. He also emphasized the need for urgent humanitarian aid to Gaza to counter the Israeli blockade and prevent the displacement of Palestinians.

Beyond addressing the Israel-Hamas conflict, President Xi encouraged Arab states to deepen cooperation with China in various sectors, including trade, clean energy, space exploration, and healthcare. The summit, which saw participation from leaders such as the United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Bahrain King Hamad, and Tunisia’s President Kais Saied, underscored China's focus on expanding economic ties and addressing security concerns linked to the Israel-Hamas war.

"China’s priorities in the region are primarily economic," commented Maria Papageorgiou, a lecturer in politics and international relations at the University of Exeter. "It wants to continue the momentum established in recent years with Gulf states and expand its investments, particularly in trade, technology, and other cyber initiatives."

Xi and el-Sissi also held a bilateral meeting on Wednesday, where they signed multiple cooperation agreements aimed at enhancing infrastructure, technology, and food import ties between China and Egypt. China's investments in Egypt, including the Suez Canal economic zone and a new administrative capital east of Cairo, highlight the deepening economic relationship between the two nations. Trade between Egypt and China reached around $14 billion in 2023, slightly down from $16.6 billion in 2022.

Established in 2004, the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum serves as a formal dialogue mechanism between China and Arab countries. China is a key economic partner for many in the region, including Tunisia and the UAE. Tunisia, for instance, has seen Chinese investments in hospitals, sports complexes, and critical infrastructure. The UAE, meanwhile, continues to expand its economic ties with China despite facing criticism from the U.S. over an alleged Chinese military facility in Abu Dhabi.

China's diplomatic influence in the Middle East has also grown, exemplified by its role in brokering the 2023 agreement to restore diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, a task traditionally undertaken by major global powers like the United States and Russia.


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