Opinion / Web Comments

China is never far from the Middle East

By Qi Li (chinadaily.com.cn) Updated: 2013-05-13 14:55

Geographically, China and the Middle East seem to be far apart, but they have much in common.

Both are cradles of great civilizations and share similar traditional values. Over the centuries there have been extensive cultural and commercial exchanges, not least along the Silk Route.

The Middle East has been burdened with unresolved history, in particular the Palestinian question.

But the peoples and nations in the region want peace, and China, as an old and trustworthy friend, is keen to lend a hand.

China has long supported the settlement of the Palestinian question in light of UN resolutions and the principle of "land for peace". The establishment of diplomatic relations in 1992 with Israel has enabled China to approach both sides and make more efforts in facilitating the atmosphere for dialogue.

More than ten years ago, China appointed its special envoy to the Middle East and has also been involved in peacekeeping missions, such as in Lebanon. Several Chinese peacekeepers have paid the ultimate price.

No wonder the leaders of both the Palestinians and the Israelis see China's role as a constructive one.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were in Beijing recently for talks with their Chinese counterparts.

Again the government rendered its good offices, and went even further to make a four-point proposal. In that proposal, China called for an independent Palestinian state and peaceful co-existence between Palestine and Israel.

There are a number of important players when it comes to the Middle East peace process, including major world powers. However, China has a unique place. China has never engaged in any hostile activities in the region and its interactions with the countries of the region has always been positive and worthwhile.

The brief overlapping in timing of the visits to Beijing of Abbas and Netanyahu may be coincidental. Nevertheless, it is a vivid indication as to how important the Middle East is in the eyes of China, a feeling that is reciprocated. Given the gravity and complexity of the questions in the region, it may be wise to work in a prudent manner and with a soft touch.

The author is a Beijing-based scholar of international relations.

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