BEIJING, Nov 20 (Reuters) – Arab and Muslim ministers called on Monday for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, the first leg of their delegation’s tour to Beijing to end hostilities and provide humanitarian aid to devastated Palestinians in the enclave.
UN The delegation, which is set to meet with officials representing each of the five permanent members of the Security Council, is pressing the West to reject its justification of Israel’s actions against the Palestinians as self-defense.
Officials from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Indonesia, Palestine and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, among others, will hold meetings with China’s top diplomat Wang Yi on Monday.
“We are here to send a clear signal: that is to stop the fighting and the killing immediately, and to deliver humanitarian goods to Gaza immediately,” said Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud.
An extraordinary Islamic-Arab summit in Riyadh this month urged the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Palestinian territories.
Saudi Arabia has sought to pressure the United States and Israel to end hostilities in Gaza, and the kingdom’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has rallied Arab and Muslim leaders to reinforce that message.
In comments posted by his ministry on X, formerly known as Twitter, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told his Chinese counterpart: “We look forward to a strong role on the part of major powers such as China to prevent attacks against the Palestinians. In the Gaza Strip, unfortunately, there are key countries that are vulnerable to the current Israeli attacks. “
Some 240 hostages were taken inside Israel during a deadly cross-border attack by Hamas on October 7, which prompted Israel to occupy the Gaza Strip with the aim of eliminating the Islamist militant group.
Gaza’s Hamas-run government said Israeli bombing killed at least 13,000 Palestinians, including at least 5,500 children.
Israeli Ambassador to Beijing Irid Ben-Abba told foreign reporters at a briefing on Monday, “There will be no statement about a ceasefire from this visit, and now is not the time.”
He said Israel hoped the delegation would talk about the hostages taken by Hamas, “calling for their immediate release without preconditions,” and that the parties involved should talk together about Egypt’s “role in facilitating humanitarian assistance.”
‘Brother and Friend’
China’s Wang said Beijing is a “good friend and brother of Arab and Muslim countries” and has “always firmly supported the legitimate cause of restoring the legitimate national rights and interests of the Palestinian people.”
Since the start of the war, China’s foreign ministry has repeatedly stopped short of condemning Hamas, instead calling for a de-escalation and a “two-state solution” for Israel and Palestine to pursue an independent Palestine.
Since the end of China’s nearly three-year-long COVID lockdowns, Xi has launched a diplomatic push aimed at confronting the United States and its allies, who he says seek to control and suppress his country.
Beijing has deepened alliances with non-Western-led multilateral groups such as the BRICS alliance, while strengthening ties with countries in the Middle East and Global South.
On Monday, Wang said China would work to “quickly end the fighting in Gaza, alleviate the humanitarian crisis, and promote a quick, comprehensive, fair and lasting solution to the Palestinian issue.”
Zhai Jun, China’s special envoy for the Middle East, has engaged officials over the past year to discuss settlement and recognition of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority – which rules the occupied West Bank – as well as the Arab League and the European Union. For Palestine at the United Nations.
Reporting by Yew Lun Tian, Laurie Chen and Beijing newsroom; Editing by Edmund Claman & Simon Cameron-Moore
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