China to host Arab leaders this week, with Israeli-Palestinian conflict on agenda

Leaders of Egypt, Bahrain, Tunisia and United Arab Emirates to convene in Beijing for talks on general cooperation, plan to issue ‘common voice’ on Palestinian issue

Chinese President Xi Jinping applauds during a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, May 16, 2024. (Sergei Guneyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Chinese President Xi Jinping applauds during a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, May 16, 2024. (Sergei Guneyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

BEIJING, China — China will host Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi as well as a number of other Arab leaders in Beijing this week, its foreign ministry said Monday.

The leaders will, from Tuesday to Saturday, “pay state visits to China and attend the opening ceremony of the 10th Ministerial Conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement.

Also among the delegation will be Bahrain’s King Hamad, Tunisian President Kais Saied, and the United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Speaking at a press conference in Beijing, Vice Foreign Minister Deng Li said President Xi Jinping would attend the forum and deliver a keynote address on Thursday.

Xi would also “hold talks with the four heads of state respectively to exchange views on bilateral relations and regional and international issues of common concern,” Deng said.

The forum would aim to deepen “consensus between China and Arab countries,” Deng said, and would be co-chaired by top diplomat Wang Yi and his Mauritanian counterpart.

They would also “issue a common voice between China and Arab countries on the Palestinian issue,” he said.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, left, and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi vote on a resolution during a high level Security Council meeting on United Nations peacekeeping operations, at UN headquarters, September 20, 2017. (Mary Altaffer/AP)

China has sought to build closer ties with Arab states in recent years, and last year brokered a detente between Tehran and its long-time foe Saudi Arabia.

During a tour of the Middle East in January, top diplomat Wang met Sissi in Cairo, saying relations had reached their “best level” in history, according to a foreign ministry readout.

The meeting with Arab leaders in Beijing comes as China seeks to position itself as a mediator in the conflict between the Palestinian terror group Hamas and Israel.

Wang’s trip to Egypt saw the two countries release a joint statement on the conflict, expressing support for a “comprehensive, just and lasting settlement.”

China has historically been sympathetic to the Palestinian cause and supportive of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Xi has called for an “international peace conference” to resolve the fighting.

In November, Beijing hosted a meeting of foreign ministers of the Palestinian Authority, Indonesia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan for talks aimed at a “de-escalation” of the current Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

War erupted when Hamas led a massive cross-border attack on October 7 that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians. The thousands of attackers who burst through the border with the Gaza Strip and into Israel also abducted 252 people of all ages who were taken as hostages to Gaza.

Israel responded with a military campaign to destroy Hamas, topple its Gaza regime, and release the hostages.

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