Global Security Initiative drives forward deeper reconciliation in Middle East
Published: Apr 26, 2023 06:17 PM
Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

China's mediation diplomacy, guided by the Global Security Initiative, has provided a new path for the resolution of the Middle East conflict and injected enduring momentum for the wave of reconciliation in the region that the world is seeing now.

Saudi Arabia and Iran, the two arch-rivals of the Middle East, have reconciled under the mediation of China and formally restored their diplomatic relations. Within a month since then, the Saudi-Iran rapprochement is like a key that opens the door to peace in this region. The warring parties in Yemen took a critical step toward a political solution; Bahrain and other Arab countries have restored diplomatic relations with Iran; Saudi Arabia and other Arab powers are interacting more frequently with Syria. A wave of reconciliation is also encouraging more joint efforts between China and the Middle East in pursuing peace.

China's mediation in the Middle East has not stopped here. In separate phone calls with Israeli and Palestinian foreign ministers on April 17, China's State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang said China favors the two sides resuming peace talks. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict involves territory, sovereignty, refugees, and many other complex issues, which are unlikely to be simply resolved in several negotiations. In recent years, the US has deviated from the "two-state solution" with growing preference toward Israel, making it lose its status as a mediator for peace in the Middle East. 

In the absence of an international mediator, the Palestinian-Israeli situation is in danger of spiraling out of control. At this point, China hopes to play the role of an impartial mediator to promote negotiation for the short- and long-term peace between the two sides. Despite the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, China will persist in its support for a "two-state solution" to find a reasonable way out and implement its Global Security Initiative in the Middle East.

The wave of reconciliation in the Middle East is being driven by both internal and external factors. Internally, the regional countries have paid a heavy price and are overwhelmed with strategic overextension since the Arab Spring, which has led them to desperately desire to stop conflict and seek peace. Externally, the role of major powers in the Middle East conflict stands in sharp contrast to the wave of reconciliation. Compared with the policy that generates confrontation, China's mediation diplomacy has provided a new path for the resolution of the Middle East conflict, as well as a reference for the war in Yemen and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

Moreover, the wave of reconciliation has exposed the negative role of the US in the region. After years of conflict, Middle Eastern countries have gradually realized that their conflicts are not innate or insurmountable. The US pursuit of hegemony in the Middle East and deliberately prolonging conflicts constitute the important source of long-term geopolitical confrontation in this region. The US-led strategic contraction from the Middle East and its weakened security commitments have made Middle Eastern countries pursue higher strategic autonomy and a willingness for regional peace. The fact that "a step back from the US military is a step forward in Middle East reconciliation" is a phenomenon worthy of deeper reflection by US allies.

While the vast majority of the world has welcomed the long-overdue geopolitical détente in the Middle East and appreciated China's positive role, the US seems to be sitting on the thorns. The US looks at the new situation in the Middle East from the perspective of major power competition, and believes that the relationship between major powers in the region is a zero-sum game, and China is filling the gap left by it.

Under the Saudi-Iran agreement, the Middle East has seen a thriving situation of unity and prosperity. However, the continuation of the "reconciliation wave" and the resolution of regional hotspots still face various challenges. First, the Middle East conflicts are so complicated and deep-rooted that it is hard to get a one-time solution in the short term.

Second, the foundation of reconciliation is fragile. Mutual trust is far from enough between Middle Eastern countries after years of conflict, let alone the lack of economic integration and common interests. Besides, there are internal and external forces against reconciliation. Some countries are still trying to undermine the reconciliation process in this region. Finally, the modern state system is not yet complete in this region. Middle Eastern countries are still oscillating between the rigidity caused by strongman politics and the turmoil caused by political transformation. 

The recent outbreak of civil conflict in Sudan shows that there is a long way to go for peace and stability in the Middle East, which requires the joint efforts of the international community in the "Beijing spirit" conveyed by the Saudi-Iran reconciliation.

The author is a professor at the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn