Source: http://me.china-embassy.gov.cn/, Special Envoy of the Chinese Government on the Middle East Issue, Ambassador Zhai Jun
China is more than ever deeply concerned about the escalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. Nevertheless, China has always advocated a political settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute and opposed the use of force and acts that harm innocent civilians. Thus, China strongly calls on all parties to exercise restraint, immediately cease military operations and armed conflicts, achieve a ceasefire, and ease the situation as soon as possible.
In this context, as a Special Envoy of the Chinese Government on the Middle East Issue, Ambassador Zhai Jun played an indispensable role in China’s mediation in Gaza. Since the breakout of the Israel-Hamas conflict, Zhai Jun has had at least eight phone conversations with various countries, taken a trip to Middle East countries and attended at least five conferences on this issue. This effort only contributes to China’s increasing role in the resolution of the Gaza conflict and the peace efforts of its representatives within various international organisms.
Holding Phone Conversations and Attending Conferences to Share Chinese Standpoint
China’s position is decisive for easing regional tensions in Gaza and it is willing to make efforts to stabilize the region as before. After the breakout of the conflict, various countries, especially Arab countries, were eager for China’s standpoint on the conflict. To ease the anxiety of national leaders and avoid further deterioration of the situation, China needed to deliver its point of view to the international community.
While holding the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council in November 2023, China pushed the Security Council to adopt the first relevant resolution on November 15th, since the current round of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has started. The resolution called for an emergency humanitarian moratorium and the establishment of humanitarian corridors throughout the Gaza Strip. Therefore, Arab and Islamic countries expressed their appreciation for China’s push for the Security Council to issue this resolution.
Until now, in terms of humanitarian assistance, China has provided 2 million dollars in emergency humanitarian assistance through the Palestinian National Authority and United Nations agencies, and 15-million-yuan worth of food, medicine and other emergency humanitarian supplies to the Gaza Strip through Egypt. Moreover, China will continue to provide material assistance in accordance with the needs of the Gaza people.
As a Special Envoy of China, Zhai Jun shouldered significant responsibility as a conveyor of China’s attitude on the Israel-Palestine issues. At the International Humanitarian Conference in Paris held on November 9, 2023, he emphasized China’s tasks and stance, which could be summarized into three points: ceasefire, avoidance from a wider humanitarian disaster and call for the international community to redouble diplomatic efforts (MFA of PRC, 11.9). The content is basically similar with his first phone conversation, with Assistant Minister of the Palestine Department in the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Osama Khedr, on October 10th (China Daily, 10.11).
Taking a Shuttle Diplomacy among the Middle East Countries and Doubling the Chinese Efforts in this Matter at the UN
On top of that, his travel to the Middle East was a key part of his diplomatic effort. During his Middle East trip from October 19 to October 30, 2023, he visited Qatar, Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan, met with the Special Presidential Representative of Russia, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States and Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, as well as attended the Cairo Summit for Peace on the Palestinian Question and the 10th Symposium on China-Arab Relations and China-Arab Civilization Dialogue.
Through this direct visit to Middle East countries, Zhai Jun expressed China’s willingness to work with them to solve this problem. Before October 25th, all four draft resolutions on Israel-Palestine issue were rejected by the UN Security Council (UN News, 10.25). The visits conveyed the important message from China that the regional countries’ appeals under the international law would be supported by China, which might increase their confidence in finding a solution through negotiation. For the same purpose, when visiting Jordan on October 30th, Zhai Jun mentioned that as a co-sponsor of the draft resolution, China highly appreciates and supports Jordan’s important and unique role at this critical juncture (MFA of PRC, 10.30).
In his speech at the Cairo Summit for Peace on the Palestinian Question, Zhai Jun said that the China is highly concerned about the development of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and about the sharp escalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which has led to massive civilian casualties and a humanitarian crisis. He added that China condemns all acts of harm to civilians, opposes any violation of international law, and urges the immediate cessation of military operations that further exacerbate the situation and the opening of humanitarian relief routes. On top of that, Zhai Jun highlighted that the continuous escalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict once again proves that the Palestinian issue cannot be ignored and forgotten. The fundamental way out of the repeated cycle of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is to implement the two-state solution, establish an independent Palestinian state, and realize peaceful coexistence between Palestine and Israel. China will continue to work with all relevant parties in the international community to quell the fighting in Gaza as soon as possible, support the Palestinian people in restoring their legitimate national rights, implement the two-state solution and achieve lasting peace and security in the Middle East.
On November 9th, 203, Zhai Jun attended the International Humanitarian Conference for the Civilian Population of Gaza, which was initiated by France in Paris. Leaders or representatives of France, Palestine and other countries, as well as heads of international and regional organizations such as the United Nations and the European Union attended the meeting. In his speech, Zhai Jun underlined that the conflict between Palestine and Israel has dragged on for too long, resulting in a large number of civilian casualties and a sharp deterioration of the humanitarian situation. He also said that China supports all efforts aimed at de-escalating the conflict and restoring peace, and welcomes any initiative that is conducive to protecting civilians and alleviating the humanitarian crisis. China has always supported the just cause of the Palestinian people to restore their legitimate national rights, sincerely hopes to see peaceful coexistence between Palestine and Israel, and has been actively promoting peace talks for a long time.
In addition, Zhang Jun, the permanent representative of the Chinese delegation to the United Nations, said that on December 11th, under the organization of the governments of the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, he visited the Arish and Rafah ports together with representatives of other Security Council members, concluding that the humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip has reached a point where it is difficult to describe in words. Israel, as the occupying power, must fulfil its obligations under international humanitarian law. China firmly opposes the forced displacement and forced relocation of people in the Gaza Strip. China supports the continued relief efforts of the United Nations humanitarian agencies in the Gaza Strip and calls for immediate action to expand humanitarian access, including by making full use of all border crossings, including Kerem Shalom, to allow sufficient humanitarian supplies to enter the Gaza Strip without hindrance. China supports further diplomatic mediation to ensure the early release of all detainees.
At the emergency special session of the UN General Assembly on the Palestinian-Israeli issue, he declared that China welcomes the resolution adopted at the emergency special session of the UN General Assembly, calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. This resolution was co-sponsored by 104 countries, and China also participated in the co-sponsorship and voted in favor of it. This is why the adoption of the resolution by an overwhelming majority reflects the aspirations of the international community and must be fully and effectively implemented.
On December 22nd, 2023, the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and adopted a draft resolution, sponsored by the United Arab Emirates, with a vote of 13 in favor, none against and two abstentions, calling on all parties to the conflict to facilitate the direct and massive delivery of humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians throughout the Gaza Strip and to create conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities. The resolution also requested the Secretary-General to establish a coordinator in the Gaza Strip and to establish relevant United Nations mechanisms to expedite the delivery of humanitarian relief to Gaza through countries not parties to the conflict.
Meeting with other Core Actors on the Israel-Palestine Issues
Moreover, Zhai Jun met with other core actors regarding the Palestinian question in order to develop a common position. Before the trip, he met with the Ambassador of France to China at the latter’s request. During the trip, he met with the representative of Russia and said that China and Russia have the same position on the Palestinian question (MFA of PRC, 10.20). After the trip, he also met with the U.S. Ambassador and the Chargé d’affaires a.i. of the Delegation of the European Union. By exchanging views with representatives of these actors, Zhai Jun tried to facilitate the process of reaching a consensus position between China and these actors.
Through phone conversations, conference attendances, trips to the Middle East and meeting with other core actors, the Chinese Special Envoy Zhai Jun has shown the world China’s position of actively promoting the resolution of regional issues. Moreover, China has shown itself ready to work with all members to push the Security Council to take further responsible and meaningful actions in a timely manner, and continue to make unremitting efforts to quell the fighting in Gaza at an early date, earnestly implement the two-state solution and achieve peace and stability in the Middle East.
Also, it is the mission of China’s special envoy on the Middle East issue to promote peace talks. In the current situation between Palestine and Israel, whatever the cause of the war, it is ordinary people who suffer the scars of war, and resorting to force can only undermine the hard-won peace process. In the face of the war in Gaza, the international community should shoulder its responsibilities and strive to bring the Palestinian-Israeli issue back on the right track for a political settlement. It would not only foster consensus among various countries, contributing to the problem solving, but also bring most of them back to the negotiating table so that international mechanisms can enhance the role in addressing global issues.
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About the author:
Mrs. Jun Qiao is student at the Anhui University, China and Mr. Mingxuan Huang is student at the Yunnan University, China. They are interns at MEPEI.