Muslim ministers meet Chinese FM, call for ‘immediate ceasefire’

Published November 21, 2023
The international community must take urgent action to stop the “humanitarian disaster” unfolding in Gaza, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told visiting diplomats from Arab and Muslim-majority nations on Nov 20. — AFP
The international community must take urgent action to stop the “humanitarian disaster” unfolding in Gaza, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told visiting diplomats from Arab and Muslim-majority nations on Nov 20. — AFP

• Delegates set to meet officials of five permanent UNSC states
• Putin, Xi to attend BRICS video summit today

BEIJING: Ministers from several Muslim countries called on Monday for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, as their delegation visited Beijing on the first leg of a tour to push for an end to hostilities and to allow humanitarian aid into the devastated Palestinian enclave.

The delegation, which is set to meet officials representing each of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, is also piling pressure on the West to reject Israel’s justification of its actions against Palestinians as ‘‘self-defence.’’

The officials holding meetings with China’s top diplomat Wang Yi on Monday are from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Indonesia, Palestinian authorities and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, among others.

“We are here to send a clear signal: that is we must immediately stop the fighting and the killings, we must immediately deliver humanitarian supplies to Gaza,” said Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud.

Saudi Arabia has sought to press the United States and Israel for an end to hostilities in Gaza, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, gathered Arab and Muslim leaders to reinforce that message.

The delegation will also meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday (today) to discuss the situation in Gaza, the RIA news agency reported. The RIA report, citing a Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, did not specify which countries would be attending the meeting in Moscow.

In comments posted by his ministry on X, Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry told his Chinese counterpart: “We look forward to a stronger role on the part of great powers such as China in order to stop the attacks against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Unfortunately, there are major countries that give cover to the current Israeli attacks.”

‘Brother and friend’

China’s Wang said Beijing was a “good friend and brother of Arab and Muslim countries,” adding it has “always firmly supported the just cause of the Palestinian people to restore their legitimate national rights and interests.” Since the start of hostilities, China’s foreign ministry has repeatedly calling for de-escalation and for Israel and Palestine to pursue a “two-state solution” for an independent Palestine.

Beijing has deepened alliances with non-Western-led multilateral groups such as the BRICS bloc of nations while strengthening ties with countries in the Middle East and the Global South.

President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend a video summit of BRICS leaders on Tuesday (today) on the Palestinian-Israeli issue, state media reported on Monday.

Separately, the Kremlin said that Putin will set out Russia’s view of what it sees as the “deeply unstable world situation” when he addresses an upcoming virtual G20 summit. Russian state TV presenter Pavel Zarubin said on his Telegram channel on Sunday that it would be the “first event in a long time” including both Putin and Western leaders. According to the state RIA news agency, the G20 virtual summit will be held on Wednesday.

On Monday, Wang said China will work to “quell the fighting in Gaza as soon as possible, alleviate the humanitarian crisis and promote an early, comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the Palestinian issue.”

China’s special envoy on the Middle East, Zhai Jun, has engaged officials from Israel and the Palestinian Authority — which governs in the occupied West Bank — as well as the Arab League and EU in the last year to discuss a two-state solution and recognition for Palestine at the United Nations.

Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2023

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