China urges Palestine - Israel dialogue



China's President Xi Jinping (R) meets with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu along with their delegates during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on May 9, 2013. Netanyahu is on a five-day trip to China. AFP PHOTO / POOL (Photo credit should read KIM KYUNG-HOON/AFP/Getty Images)



China had unequivocal advice for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday during his visit to the Asian nation: re-open talks with Palestine and learn to work with their long-time adversaries.

Both Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas were in China this week, when Chinese offers to hold a bilateral meeting were rebuffed, and all rumors of secret talks were denied, CNN reported. 

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Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang said "China expects Israel and Palestine to work together, take substantive measures to remove obstacles and create conditions for the restoration and progress of peace talks" while speaking to Netanyahu, the Associated Press reported. 

The Chinese Foreign Ministry quoted Chinese President Xi Jinping as telling Netanyahu, "We hope Israel and Palestine can work together, take feasible measures, gradually build mutual trust, restart the peace talks as soon as possible and make substantial progress."

"China will keep its objective and just stance, actively promote talks and [...] contribute to maintaining peace and stability in the Middle East," Xi said.

Beijing also alluded negatively to reputed Israeli airstrikes against Syria. "We oppose the use of weapons. We believe the sovereignty of any country should be respected," Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said earlier in the week, according to CNN. 

"China calls upon relevant parties to bear in mind peace and stability of the region, to exercise restraint and refrain from any actions that may escalate the tension," she added.

Netanyahu is leading a delegation of Israeli businesspeople on a trip aimed at highlighting trade and commerce with China. He sought to solicit more Chinese investment in Israel, which is already substantial and growing. 

"I believe that Israel can be a perfect partner of China. China is a globally economic pal. And Israel is a global center of R&D. And I think we can complement each other to secure the market of tomorrow," Netanyahu said, according to Chinese newspaper The People's Daily.

Netanyahu also paid a symbolic visit to Shanghai's Jewish Quarter, where 18,000 Jewish refugees resided during and after the Holocaust, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Despite China's ambitions to play a large role on the international stage, its influence on the social, military and strategic matters tearing up the Middle East is tiny.

Netanyahu's trip, which Israel hopes will cement new financial ties with the Asian economic colossus, was postponed three times.

Last Sunday, the timing thought to be in doubt again after Syria accused Israel of carrying out an air raid on its territory on the day Netanyahu was supposed to leave for Shanghai.

Noga Tarnopolsky reported from Jerusalem.