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Chinese envoy meets Hamas chief Haniyeh after first visit to Israel since Gaza war began

Chinese diplomat Wang Kejian met Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh in Qatar, China’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday, the first meeting between a Chinese and Hamas official publicly acknowledged by Beijing since the outbreak of the war in Gaza.

The meeting follows visits from Wang to Israel and the occupied West Bank – making him the first known envoy Beijing has sent to either location since Hamas’ deadly October 7 attacks and the ensuing Israeli bombardment of Gaza.

Wang and Haniyeh “exchanged views on the Gaza conflict and other issues” during their meeting Sunday, according to a brief readout from China’s Foreign Ministry Tuesday.

Haniyeh stressed in the meeting “the need to quickly stop the aggression and massacres,” for the Israeli military to withdraw from Gaza, and “achieve the political goals and aspirations of establishing an independent Palestinian state,” according to a press release from the Hamas government media office. Chinese Ambassador to Qatar Cao Xiaolin was also present at the meeting, the statement said.

Haniyeh “praised the role played by China in the Security Council, the United Nations, and the International Court of Justice,” the Hamas statement said, referring to Beijing’s recent diplomacy related to the war.

The militant group also said they had met with Cao late last month in Qatar. China’s Foreign Ministry and its embassy in Qatar did not release any information about that meeting.

Wang’s visit comes as Beijing aims to step up its profile as a peace broker and has become increasingly vocal in its opposition to the Gaza war.

Wang, a former ambassador to Lebanon, has been in the region since at least March 10 when he met with counterparts in Egypt, before traveling to the West Bank, Israel and Qatar as part of a previously unannounced trip in which the war in Gaza has been high on the agenda.

Fighting began on October 7 when Hamas carried out a deadly attack on Israel, killing more than 1,200 people and taking some 250 hostages, according to Israel. Israeli forces have since launched months of ongoing bombardment and ground operations in the Hamas-ruled enclave of Gaza, where the death toll stands higher than 31,000, according to the Ministry of Health in the strip.

Beijing did not name or condemn Hamas in the wake of the October 7 attacks. Since then, it has condemned the war and been a vocal proponent of an immediate ceasefire and the implementation of a “two-state” solution.

During his visit to the West Bank, Wang met with the Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki, where the Chinese envoy said Beijing is “deeply concerned” about the conflict in Gaza.

He also pledged to work with the international community to “swiftly extinguish the flames of war” and achieve a “comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the Palestinian question based on a two-state solution,” according to a readout from China’s Foreign Ministry.

In a subsequent visit to Israel Thursday, Wang met with Israeli foreign affairs officials, stating that the top priority is a “comprehensive ceasefire, cessation of the war, guarantee of humanitarian aid and protection of civilians,” a separate Chinese readout said.

China dispatched Zhai Jun, a special envoy for the Middle East, to the region in the weeks following the October 7 attack and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi held meetings in Egypt at the start of the year, but neither were confirmed to have visited the Palestinian Territories or Israel.

Chinese officials have had other contact with Israeli and Palestinian officials since the start of the war, including when Beijing hosted a delegation from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, the Palestinian National Authority, and Indonesia in November.

Solidarity with Global South

Beijing has also used the war as a platform to showcase its solidarity with the Arab world and Global South, while positioning its views as in opposition to those of the United States.

Speaking to reporters in Beijing earlier this month, Foreign Minister Wang said the failure to end the humanitarian disaster in Gaza was a “disgrace for civilization” and he urged the international community to “act promptly to promote an immediate ceasefire as its overriding priority.”

“China supports Palestine’s full membership in the UN, and urges certain UN Security Council member not to lay obstacles to that end,” Wang said in a veiled swipe at Washington, which has backed Israel’s right to retaliate following Hamas’ terror attack.

China has also called for convening an international peace conference and setting a specific timetable for implementing a two-state solution.

Though it is unclear how much sway China has in the region to play a strong role backing such an effort, an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel is consistent with Beijing’s longstanding foreign policy. It was one of the first countries to recognize Palestine as a sovereign state in the late 1980s and has long advocated for a two-state solution.

Beijing’s growing criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians comes as it too has been accused of rights abuses against minorities, particularly in its western Xinjiang region.

The UN’s highest human rights office said “serious human rights violations” that could amount to “crimes against humanity” have been committed against Uyghur and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, where rights groups and researchers have said more than a million people may have been placed in “re-education” camps. Beijing denies committing rights abuses in Xinjiang.

This post appeared first on cnn.com
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