China's envoy in Middle East to push for de-escalating tensions
US posture is 'adding more fuel to flames, aggravating regional hatred'
Published: Oct 20, 2023 11:36 PM
People remove a victim from a building destroyed in Israeli airstrikes in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, on Oct. 17, 2023. Photo: Xinhua

People remove a victim from a building destroyed in Israeli airstrikes in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, on Oct. 17, 2023. Photo: Xinhua

While the US, which has failed to act as an impartial mediator, has stood on the opposite side of the rest of the world by pledging funds to Israel amid rising global unease and dissatisfaction over its one-sided support for the country, China's special envoy on Middle East affairs has been busy working with the international community to work on a ceasefire and buy more time for humanitarian assistance. 

At the invitation of the Egyptian government, Zhai Jun, special envoy of the Chinese government on the Middle East issue will attend a summit on the Palestinian question held in Cairo, according to China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday. The summit will bring together world leaders including the Palestinian President, Jordanian King and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to discuss the escalating of war, Reuters reported. Zhai arrived in Doha and respectively spoke with Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Africa Mikhail Bogdanov and Qatar's Minister of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mohammed bin Abdulaziz bin Saleh Al-Khulaifi on Thursday. 

China is seeking to promote the de-escalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and resume peace talks and a ceasefire, the special envoy said, calling on all parties concerned to maintain calm and show restraint, and to avoid further deterioration and even loss of control of the situation.

China is deeply saddened by the number of civilian casualties caused by the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the severe deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Palestine and opposes all actions that harm civilians, or any practices that violate international law, Zhai told Mikhail Bogdanov.

While meeting with Minister Mohammed bin Abdulaziz bin Saleh Al-Khulaifi in Doha, Zhai said that Qatar holds significant influence in the Palestinian question and China is willing to maintain talks and coordination with Qatar to play a constructive role in easing the current tense situation.

Al-Khulaifi said Qatar was actively engaging in diplomatic mediation efforts to de-escalate the situation and valued China's role and influence and was prepared to strengthen communication to work toward an early, just, and reasonable settlement of the Palestinian question. 

The role of China is significant in pushing for easing the regional conflict in the Middle East. Unlike the US, China has a correct understanding of the root causes of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It is easier for China to gather international consensus and push for more international forces to work toward a constructive resolution of the conflict, Li Haidong, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Friday. 

Prior to his visit to the Middle East, Zhai held a series of phone calls with officials of Palestine, Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other Middle Eastern countries to discuss the current situation, stressing that the fundamental solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict lies in implementing the two-state solution.

Mao Ning, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Friday's press briefing that Zhai will also visit more relevant countries in the Middle East and will keep the world updated. 

Mao said that China has always believed that when dealing with international and regional hotspot issues, major powers should adhere to a stance of objectivity and impartiality, take the lead in abiding by international law, and play a constructive role in the political settlement of the problem. 

The urgent need for an impartial party to employ diplomatic mediation in the regional conflict is crucial to alleviating the humanitarian disaster, especially considering the recent disappointment over the US' actions in the region, Ding Long, a professor at the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University, told the Global Times on Friday.

The situation in the Gaza strip has entered its fourteenth day and has been escalating since it started. Satellite images reported by the New York Times on Friday revealed the positioning of numerous tanks and armored vehicles by Israel in two areas north of Gaza, indicating their readiness for a possible ground invasion. 

China has always stood on the side of peace and justice. We oppose all acts of violence against civilians and civilian facilities, and condemn any actions that violate international law, Mao said, calling on all parties to immediately cease fire, protect civilians, and avoid a humanitarian disaster. 

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres inspects relief supplies that arrived from the United Arab Emirates at El Arish International Airport, before his visit to the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. Photo: VCG

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres inspects relief supplies that arrived from the United Arab Emirates at El Arish International Airport, before his visit to the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. Photo: VCG

Commenting on how to achieve a ceasefire and ease the situation, Ding said it will require joint efforts of the major powers and the UN to put pressure on Israel to make it clear that military means cannot solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and they should return to the track of negotiations at an early date. However, the US' one-sided support for Israel has undermined the world's efforts to address the conflict.

US being peace spoiler

With signs indicating the situation in the war zone will further intensify, President Joe Biden pleaded on Thursday for the US to stand firmly behind Israel and Ukraine, provoking a wide backlash. Analysts condemned the US as a trouble maker and peace spoiler, and its one-sided support for Israel would cause the conflict to spiral out of control and cast a shadow over international efforts to resolve the conflict through negotiations.

Biden said he would send an "urgent" funding request to Congress on Friday, which is expected to be $105 billion, BBC reported.

The US posture on the regional issue is more than adding fuel to the flames. What Biden has done in the region is not making Israel safer but the situation more dangerous as it only escalates regional hatred and tensions, Ding noted.

"The US policy toward the Middle East is completely baffling, as they simultaneously support Israel's continued involvement in the war while also expressing concerns over the situation spiraling out of control," Li said.

From Iraq and Syria to Gaza, it is evident that the US is a troublemaker in the Middle East, where it is always trying to create crisis and chaos to achieve its intention of being the so-called leader in the region, Li said.

The pledge triggered a widespread backlash, ranging from the resignation of a US State Department official in protest against the Biden administration's approach to the regional conflict, to the issuance of worldwide security warning alerts by the US State Department, cautioning American citizens overseas about potential terrorist attacks they may face.

Li told the Global Times that the worldwide security alert issued by the US State Department indicates a potential escalation in Gaza. What is sad is that the US' irresponsible provocations have already affected the interests and security of US citizens overseas, he added.

The US' one-sided support for Israel has sparked anger in broader regions, putting the presence of US forces there under growing danger. On Thursday, a Navy warship intercepted missiles that seemed to be targeting Israel, while American bases in Iraq and Syria faced multiple drone attacks, media reports said. 

On Thursday, US Navy destroyer, USS Carney, deployed in the Red Sea region, intercepted three ground-to-ground missiles and several vehicles launched by Houthi forces in Yemen, according to AP. It was described as "the first shots by the US military in the defense of Israel in this conflict."

According to Reuters, citing unnamed security sources, Iraqi military bases housing US forces were targeted by rockets and drones on Thursday. These attacks follow a recent response from Iraqi armed groups aligned with Iran, who vowed to retaliate against the US for its backing of Israel in its conflict with Hamas.

Despite escalated tensions, the likelihood of direct US military involvement in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is low, depending on the extent to which the conflict spills over. Although the current US military presence in the Middle East suggests that it is capable of engaging in military action if desired, the probability of direct US involvement is low if the Palestinian-Israeli conflict does not escalate to the level of attacks on Israel by Iran or other forces in the region, Li noted.  

The extent of this spillover is still being observed, and if it reaches the point of Iran's involvement, the US is likely to escalate its military actions, Li added.