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November 21, 2012

China to Host Palestinian Envoy, Urges Restraint in Gaza

by Kate Woodsome

China says it will host an envoy of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas this week to discuss the conflict in Gaza.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying announced the visit Wednesday while calling for all sides in the conflict to exercise restraint.

“We urge relevant parties, in particular the Israeli side, to exercise maximum restraint, realize immediate ceasefire and avoid escalation of tension.  China supports the international community, including the U.N. Security Council, to take necessary actions on this issue,” Hua said at a daily press briefing in Beijing.

China is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, with veto power on votes in the world body.

Bassam al-Salhi, general-secretary of a minor faction called the Palestinian People’s Party, will arrive in China on Thursday for a three-day visit, according to Hua.

When asked whether China would send its own envoy to the region, Hua said Beijing supports the efforts currently underway.

“Recently the foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, had a telephone conversation with Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr expressing support to Egypt, other Arab states and the Arab League's efforts to alleviate tension.  We have maintained close contact with Israel, Palestine and other parties concerned,” she said.

An Arab League delegation visited Gaza this week, while U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shuttled between the West Bank, Israel and Egypt to support a truce in the fighting that has killed at least 135 people, most of them Palestinians. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also has made similar trips this week.

Beijing at one time did not recognize Israel’s right to exist and was one of the first countries to support Palestinian statehood, helping the cause with military training and aid. Relations between China and Israel improved in the 1980s as Beijing began buying technology and telecommunications equipment. They established official diplomatic relations in 1992.

Hua said China will continue to work with the international community to push for the early settlement of the Gaza conflict and what she called the “fair and reasonable resolution” of the Palestinian issue.