China can contribute to ease Mideast tensions

By Wang Wenwen Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/8 23:28:39

The diplomatic spat between Gulf nations and Qatar continues to unfold. As eight nations announced they were severing diplomatic relations with Qatar over its alleged support for terrorist groups, how this diplomatic standoff matters to China has raised concern.

As the Middle East is the world's main energy-exporting region, the Qatari stock market plunged and oil prices rose soon after the crisis broke out, generating fears from investors about the global supply of crude oil. People have begun to worry that the regional situation will spiral out of control or even descend into war.

China is walking a fine line. Since 2004, China has been negotiating a free trade agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council which includes Qatar and those that cut diplomatic ties with it such as Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. If the feud between the members spirals out of control, the agreement may not see the light of day.

China has good relations with both sides at a time when its influence in the Middle East is growing. Energy is the foundation of China-Saudi cooperation. Saudi Arabia is the world's largest oil exporter and China needs oil badly for its development.

China and Qatar have enormous binding economic interests as well. In 2015, Qatar opened the Middle East's first center for clearing transactions in the Chinese yuan which is expected to boost trade and investment between China and Gulf Arab economies.

In recent years, China has also expanded its political involvement in the Middle East thanks to its efforts to mediate in the Syrian conflict. It adheres to the principle of non-interference and the engagement to facilitate a political resolution to the crisis.

The current row between Qatar and Gulf nations is complicated in that it concerns not only religion and terrorism, but also the interests of major powers. US President Donald Trump has offered to help resolve the worsening diplomatic crisis.

With the rift widening and the situation becoming more complex due to the involvement of different powers, Chinese companies should  assess the risks well before investing in the region.

Meanwhile, China should contribute to the international efforts to ease Middle East tensions. China's foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying noted in a Wednesday press briefing that "China hopes that relevant parties can properly resolve differences through negotiation on the basis of mutual respect and non-interference in internal affairs and remain in unity and harmony."

China is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and has also sent a special envoy to the Middle East to advance the peace process in the region. China's rationality and the ability to coordinate in promoting peace in the Middle East and its insistence on a political solution put China in a favorable position to be a mediator.



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