WASHINGTON— Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is in the Middle East as part of a push by Beijing to help the Israelis and Palestinians reach a peace deal. He plans to meet Thursday with his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman, and with Israeli President Shimon Peres.
Wang Yi voiced hope for a Middle East peace agreement as he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday in Jerusalem.
"We hope that Israel and Palestine will truly see this historic opportunity to meet each other halfway and send out messages of goodwill to each other and eventually find the way and means of resolving their problems through peace talks, so that we will be able to see true peace between Israel and Palestine and also lay a good foundation for broader peace and stability in the Middle East region. As [a] permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, China is ready to continue to play a positive role in this regard," said Wang.
Netanyahu said it is important for China to help facilitate the peace process.
"We want to see a future of peace, prosperity and security and progress for the peoples of the Middle East, and I would say beyond. And when I speak to China, I'm talking about a peace that encompasses the world," said Netanyahu.
Earlier Wednesday, Wang held talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Wang also laid a wreath at the grave of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Some observers see Wang's visit to the Middle East as an example of China's growing influence in the region.
"The Chinese foreign minister's visit to Israel at this time should be understood within the context of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to China last May, following which relations between the two countries began to improve quite considerably. I think the Chinese want to show their presence in this region, although they don't want to become directly involved. But they want to show that they are pretty much interested, they have good relations with all parties concerned, not only Israel but also the Palestinians," said Yitzhak Shichor, an Isareli analyst.
Wang's trip came about a week after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met in the region with Abbas and Netanyahu as part of a U.S. effort to secure a Middle East peace deal by April. The two sides first must agree on issues such as security and the status of Jerusalem.