China is flexing its diplomatic muscle with a major meeting in Beijing on Monday, welcoming foreign ministers from the Middle East in an attempt to exert its influence over the Israel-Hamas war.
Its top diplomat hosted ministers from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Indonesia, saying his country would work with “our brothers and sisters” in the Arab and Islamic world to try to end the war in Gaza as soon as possible.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the foreign diplomats that their decision to visit Beijing shows their high level of trust in his nation.
“China is a good friend and brother of Arab and Islamic countries,” Wang said in opening remarks at a state guest house before their talks began. “We have always firmly safeguarded the legitimate rights and interests of Arab (and) Islamic countries and have always firmly supported the just cause of the Palestinian people.”
The meeting is a testament to both China’s growing geopolitical influence and its longstanding support for the Palestinians and a Palestinian state.
China has long supported Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank and often denounces Israel for its settlements in the territories. Notably, China has not criticized the initial Hamas attack on Oct.7 — which killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians — while the United States and others have called it an act of terrorism.
The five foreign ministers will visit a number of capitals in an effort to pursue a cease-fire, get aid into Gaza and end the war, Prince Faisal said last weekend. The secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Hissein Brahim Taha, is also accompanying them to Beijing.
Notably, while China is publicly supporting the Muslim leaders and their respective countries in the Middle East, a United Nations report released in 2022 found the Chinese government has committed “serious human rights violations” in its detention of Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups in Xinjiang, a western region in China.
The 48-page U.N. report warned that the “arbitrary and discriminatory detention” of such groups in Xinjiang, stripped them of “fundamental rights … [which] may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.”
It cites “patterns of torture” inside what Beijing called vocational centers, which were part of its economic development plan in the region. The report also points to “credible” allegations of torture or ill-treatment, including cases of sexual violence.
During Monday’s talks, the Saudi foreign minister called for an immediate cease-fire and the entry of humanitarian aid and relief to the Gaza Strip.
“There are still dangerous developments ahead of us and an urgent humanitarian crisis that requires an international mobilization to deal with and counter it,” Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said.
He said they appreciated the United Nations Security Council resolution calling for urgent and extended humanitarian pauses in Gaza, “but we still need more efforts and cooperation.”
Israel’s ambassador to China, Irit Ben-Abba, said Monday that her country is allowing sufficient humanitarian aid into Gaza in collaboration with international organizations and that “putting pressure on Israel in this regard is politically motivated and is not conducive to the humanitarian assistance which is needed.”
China — the world’s second-largest economy after the U.S. — has become increasingly outspoken on international affairs and even gotten directly involved in some recently.
In March, Beijing helped broker an agreement that saw Saudi Arabia and Iran re-establish ties after seven years of tension. The deal placed China squarely in the position of international deal maker, a spot held by longtime global heavyweights like the U.S. and Russia.
Fox News’ Bradford Betz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.