China presents UN with vague Mideast peace plan as US promotes its own role in easing the Gaza war

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the council that the war shows the urgent need for a Palestinian state alongside Israel

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and UN Security Council Affairs Division (SCAD) Director Claudia Banz attend a UN Council meeting on the conflict between Israel and Hamas, in New York City, November 29, 2023.BRENDAN MCDERMID (REUTERS)

China on Wednesday presented the United Nations Security Council with a four-point plan for Middle East peace in a demonstration of its ambitions to be a global superpower. But the plan was short on details, and the United States quickly reminded the council of its attempts to ease the Gaza war.

China has had little role in negotiations over the Israel-Palestinian conflict, which have been largely monopolized by the United States for decades.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the council that the war shows the urgent need for a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

“We should revitalize the political prospects of the two-state solution with stronger determination,” he said. The lack of a Palestinian state is “the crux of the repeated turbulence in the Palestinian-Israeli situation,” he said.

U.S. President Joe Biden and other U.S. officials also have spoken in favor of working toward a two-state solution for the conflict.

China made its biggest foray into Middle East politics when it brokered a deal in March for longtime opponents Iran and Saudi to reestablish diplomatic ties. The accord — sealed in Beijing after direct intervention by President Xi Jinping — helped ease the Saudi-Iranian rivalry that has fueled conflicts around the region.

“For the first time they showed a willingness to play a role in Middle East political and security matters,” said Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. “That has then opened up the floodgate of expectations.”

Regardless, the United States remains a major power in the Middle East, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield emphasized Washington’s attempts, with Middle Eastern allies, to help ease the current war.

“We’re now on the sixth day of the humanitarian pause in Gaza,” she said. “A pause that, quite frankly, would not have been possible without the leadership of Qatar, Egypt and the United States.”

Wang took a longer historical perspective. “Israel has long established an independent state and the Jews are no longer without a home,” Wang said told the Security Council. “But the right of the Palestinian people to statehood, their right to existence and their right of return, has long been ignored.”

“Fairness and justice on the Palestinian question lies in the two-state solution,” he continued. “This is irreplaceable.”

On two of his other points, Wang told the council that the world should “work for a comprehensive and lasting cease-fire with the greatest urgency,” and better protect civilians.

His fourth point was that the Security Council should “shoulder its responsibility on major issues of war and peace and life and death ... in light of the development on the ground, take further action promptly.” Wang did not specify what action the council should take.

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