EU urges China to help curb Iran's drone and missile output

Chinese President Xi Jinping calls for Middle East peace process on rare visit to Europe

Powered by automated translation

The EU on Monday told China's visiting President Xi Jinping to lean on Iran to curb its drone and missile activities in the Middle East.

China could play an “important role” at a time when “no effort can be spared” in calming the region, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said.

Arriving in France on his first European trip since 2019, Mr Xi said the Middle East conflict “pulls on our heartstrings” as he called for a renewed peace process.

French President Emmanuel Macron was also expected to push Mr Xi to restrain Russia, as he looks to keep China in the fold to tackle global crises.

China has economic ties to Russia and Iran and the three countries are viewed as a hostile axis by many politicians in the West.

Some Chinese companies are under US sanctions for alleged links to the Iranian drone industry, which is under renewed scrutiny after Iran's aerial attack on Israel on April 13.

However, China publicly positions itself as a peacemaker and there are hopes it could use its influence to contain Iran's activities, such as Tehran's support for Yemen's Houthi rebels.

China recently hosted talks between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah in Beijing in what it said was a bid to promote the Palestinian cause.

“We believe that China can play an important role in limiting the irresponsible proliferation of Iranian ballistic missiles and drones,” Ms von der Leyen said after three-way talks with Mr Macron and Mr Xi in Paris.

The crisis in the Middle East “is of great concern for both of us”, she said. “No effort can be spared in de-escalating tensions and preventing a wider conflict in the region.”

In an article published in French media, Mr Xi said the establishment of an independent state of Palestine would be the “fundamental solution” to the Middle East conflict.

The long conflict is “rooted essentially in the failure of actual enforcement of relevant UN resolutions, in the continued erosion of the foundation for the two-Ssate solution, and the deviation of the Middle East peace process,” he said.

“China and France have many [things] in common on the Palestine-Israel issue. It is thus critical that we strengthen co-operation and help restore peace in the Middle East.”

Mr Macron said EU-China dialogue on major crises was “absolutely decisive” even as European leaders press Beijing over trade rules.

“The future of our continent will very clearly depend on our ability to continue to develop relations with China in a balanced manner,” Mr Macron said.

The EU also “counts on China” to use its influence to restrain Russia, Ms von der Leyen said.

While China is officially neutral on the war in Ukraine, EU officials say it should do more to stop industrial exports from finding their way to Russia's military.

Mr Xi has played an “important role” in dialling down Moscow's nuclear rhetoric and “I am confident that [he] will continue to do so”, Ms von der Leyen said.

The Chinese leader will visit Serbia and Hungary this week, regarded as two of the most Russia-friendly governments in Europe.

Before that, he will accompany Mr Macron to the South of France for more intimate talks in the Pyrenees, joined by his wife Peng Liyuan, on Tuesday.

Updated: May 06, 2024, 11:13 PM