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Abbas, Netanyahu may hold impromptu Beijing meeting

By Wang Zhaokun (Global Times)

08:23, May 07, 2013

Chinese President Xi Jinping met with visiting Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas in Beijing on Monday, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Shanghai starting his official visit to China on the same day.

As there is a possibility that the two visiting leaders could meet in Beijing after diplomatic arrangements from China, experts say the overlapping trips are an indication that China could play a more important role in Middle Eastern affairs thanks to its growing influence in the region.

In his meeting with Abbas, Xi said China firmly supports the cause of the Palestinian people and tabled a four-point proposal for the settlement of the Palestinian question.

Xi stressed that an independent Palestinian state and the peaceful co-existence of Palestine and Israel set the right direction to follow.

In an earlier interview with Xinhua on Friday, Abbas said he would inform Chinese leaders about the barriers preventing Palestinian talks with Israel, and that he expects Beijing to contribute to the stalled peace process.

Abbas is on a state visit to China from Sunday to Tuesday at the invitation of President Xi and he is the first Middle Eastern leader to come to Beijing since China's new leadership took office in March.

Netanyahu is visiting China as a guest of Premier Li Keqiang from Monday to Friday, the first such trip by a top Israeli leader to China since 2007.

The fact that China invited leaders of both Palestine and Israel for visits at the same time is an indication of China's growing diplomatic influence as few countries have the ability to do so, Hua Liming, Chinese former ambassador to Iran, told the Global Times. He added "the Palestine issue is a diplomatic conundrum for the whole international community, and China's move also shows it is now ready to assume more international responsibilities."

"China now no longer simply acts as a 'messenger' between Palestine and Israel, but is exerting more of its own influence and is beginning to offer specific proposals for their peace process," said Li Shaoxian, vice president of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters Monday China is willing to assist Palestinian and Israeli leaders if they wish to meet while visiting China.

Ran Peleg, spokesman of the Israeli embassy in China, told the Global Times Israel welcomes Chinese proposals and arrangements to promote the peace process and dialogue.

An Israeli source familiar with the matter also confirmed to the Global Times that Jerusalem would not say no to any diplomatic arrangements offered up by Beijing.

China believes that "strengthening its relationship with Jerusalem would be a sign that it gradually is coming to possess a foothold in the region, while somewhat offsetting, and perhaps even undermining, American political influence there," the Institute of National Security Studies (INSS), said in a paper Thursday.

But Qu Xing, director of the China Institute of International Studies stated that such allegations were baseless.

"There is no competition between the China and the US here as all parties, including the US, China and the EU, can make their own contributions to the Middle East process. Their joint purpose is to see peace and stability in the area," he told the Global Times.

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