BEIJING (AP) — China is hosting the leaders of both Palestine and Israel this week in a sign of its desire for a larger role in the Middle East.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was welcomed by his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Beijing on Monday, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began a visit to the eastern financial hub of Shanghai. Netanyahu is due in Beijing on Wednesday following Abbas’ departure a day earlier.
China’s Foreign Ministry said last week it would be willing to help set up a meeting between Abbas and Netanyahu if the two men wanted. Talks between the Israeli and Palestinian sides have been deadlocked for four years and there was no indication a meeting would take place.
China has traditionally maintained a low profile in Middle East diplomacy, but in recent years has tried to play a more active role in the region as part of its quest for markets, resources and diplomatic influence. Beijing has sought stable relations with both sides in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, but has been criticised along with Russia by many for strongly opposing international intervention in Syria.
Meeting with Xi at the Great Hall of the People, the seat of China’s legislature, Abbas reviewed the history of their relations stretching back to the 1960s and said the two shared the “same views on many world problems.”
“I appreciate China’s high position in the world nowadays,” Abbas said in opening remarks at the meeting, which was followed by the signing of agreements on technical cooperation and cultural exchanges.
China recognised the state of Palestinian state in 1988, four years before establishing diplomatic ties with Israel.
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