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China calls for cease-fire in Middle East

By MINLU ZHANG at the United Nations | China Daily | Updated: 2023-10-18 09:46
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People wait to leave at the Rafah crossing in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday. MOHAMMED TALATENE/AP

China's top envoy to the United Nations on Monday called for an immediate cease-fire in the Palestine-Israel conflict to prevent it from escalating and also condemned actions that harm civilians or violate international law.

"China is deeply concerned about the continued escalation of the new round of the Palestine-Israel conflict, which has led to large-scale civilian casualties and a humanitarian crisis and whose spillover effects are also affecting regional peace and stability," said Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the UN.

"We condemn all acts that harm civilians and oppose any violation of international law. We support the responsible role of the Security Council and all efforts aimed at de-escalating the conflict and restoring peace and we welcome any initiative that is conducive to the protection of civilians and the alleviation of humanitarian crises," Zhang said at a UN Security Council meeting on a draft resolution on the situation in Palestine and Israel.

The Security Council on Monday rejected a Russian-drafted resolution that would have called for "an immediate, durable and fully respected humanitarian cease-fire" and "strongly condemns all violence and hostilities directed against civilians and all acts of terrorism".

Five Security Council members voted in favor of the draft resolution, four members voted against it, and six members abstained. The resolution did not secure the necessary nine votes in the 15-member body, leading to its failure.

"The Security Council bears the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security and should play its due role in resolving the current crisis. The international community also generally expects the council to forge a consensus and come up with practical initiatives as soon as possible," said Zhang.

"Russia has proposed a draft resolution that reflects the general direction of focusing on humanitarian concerns and the protection of civilians," he said. "We greatly regret that the Security Council was unable to reach an agreement on it. Humanitarian issues should not be politicized, and the protection of civilians should be a priority for all parties."

Zhang said the protection of civilians in armed conflict is a red line under international humanitarian law.

Diplomatic mediation

The safety of UN staff members and humanitarian workers should be guaranteed, Zhang added. "China supported the use of diplomatic mediation to secure the early release of detainees," he said.

More than 4,100 people have been killed in the conflict that began on Oct 7. The Gaza Health Ministry said 2,778 Palestinians have been killed and 9,700 wounded. More than 1,400 Israelis have been killed, and at least 199 others, including children, were captured by Hamas and taken into Gaza, according to Israel.

US President Joe Biden was expected to visit Israel on Wednesday to show support after Washington said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had agreed to let humanitarian aid reach besieged Gazans.

Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts in resolving the conflict have been stepped up. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas discussed the latest developments in Gaza during a phone call with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Monday.

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan discussed on Monday the possibility of releasing hostages during a phone conversation with Politburo Chief of the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement Ismail Haniyeh.

Tunisian Parliament Speaker Ibrahim Bouderbala called on the international community to intervene immediately to stop the conflict.

Egyptian aid trucks moved closer on Tuesday to the only entry to Gaza not controlled by Israel, Reuters quoted local and security sources as saying. It was unclear when they might pass through the crossing, which had been shut for days. Some 160 trucks had set off toward the border from the nearby Egyptian town of Al-Arish, where they had been waiting, Reuters reported.

Agencies and Xinhua contributed to this story.

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