Sheikh Mohamed calls for immediate Gaza ceasefire at China-Arab forum

Chinese President Xi Jinping promises more aid to enclave as he opens summit in Beijing

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UAE President Sheikh Mohamed has emphasised the importance of co-operation between Arab states and China to secure an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

He said Gazans faced dire conditions, increasing the importance of efforts to ensure the flow of humanitarian aid into the besieged enclave, state news agency Wam reported.

“This meeting comes in light of the escalating tensions the Middle East is witnessing as a result of the continuing war in the Gaza Strip and the difficult humanitarian conditions it has caused its residents,” Sheikh Mohamed said during his speech at the China-Arab States Co-operation Forum in Beijing.

The President also highlighted the urgent need to pursue a just and comprehensive peace in the region based on the two-state solution.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for an international peace conference focused on the Israel-Gaza war and promised more aid as he opened the summit with leaders of Arab states. The talks are being attended by heads of state from countries including the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain and Tunisia.

“War should not continue indefinitely, justice should not be absent forever,” Mr Xi said, as he reaffirmed China’s support for Palestine to be granted UN membership. “China will work with the Arab side as good partners to make our relations a model for maintaining world peace and stability.”

China has increased its diplomatic efforts in the Middle East in recent years as it looks to play a greater geopolitical role. Last year, China helped to broker a reconciliation agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran after years of animosity. That has held amid heightened regional tension caused by the Gaza war.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi also addressed the summit, urging the international community to ensure Palestinians were not displaced from the war-ravaged Gaza Strip.

“I call on all active actors of the international community to assume their moral and legal responsibilities to stop the outrageous Israeli war,” said Mr El Sisi.

“I further urge the international community to take immediate and decisive action to enforce the instantaneous and unfettered delivery of humanitarian aid and assistance to the Gaza Strip to break the Israeli siege and counter any attempts to forcibly displace the Palestinians from their lands.”

The Egyptian leader’s comments came hours after Israel’s military said it seized full control of a section of Gaza’s border with Egypt. The capture of the area – known as the Philadelphi Corridor – could further complicate Israel’s strained relations with Egypt, with Cairo having complained previously about Israel’s advance towards its border.

Israel said the corridor features tunnels used to smuggle weapons and other goods for Hamas, despite a years-long blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt.

Mr Xi's support for a peace conference on Gaza echoes an announcement from the Arab League this month. Mr Xi also said China would host the second China-Arab States Summit in 2026. He also pledged 500 million yuan ($69 million) in humanitarian aid for Gaza and promised to donate $3 million to the UN agency that provides aid and assistance to refugees of Israel's war on Gaza.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said his country appreciated China participation in international efforts aimed at ending the war in Gaza, as well as Beijing's support for the implementation of the two-state solution.

“The Kingdom emphasises the necessity of an immediate and permanent ceasefire, ensuring sufficient and continuous entry of aid, and finding a reliable and irreversible path to a two-state solution,” said Prince Faisal.

The Chinese leader said on Thursday he would seek to deepen energy co-operation with Arab states.

“China will further enhance strategic co-operation with the Arab side on oil and gas, and integrate supply security with market security,” Mr Xi said, adding that Beijing was ready to work on new energy technology and equipment production.

Updated: May 30, 2024, 5:43 PM