Australia Network Logo
China takes modest step into Middle East diplomacy
China has taken a modest step into diplomacy in the Middle East, hosting back-to-back visits from Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the leader of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas.

But a meeting between the two leaders, which China had hoped to facilitate, did not happen.

It's a change of tack for China, which has long had a policy of non-interference but is now taking a more proactive stance in global politics.

China correspondent Huey Fern Tay reports from Beijing.
Transcript
KESHA WEST, PRESENTER: China has taken a modest step into diplomacy in the Middle East, hosting back-to-back visits from Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the leader of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas.

But a meeting between the two leaders, which China had hoped to facilitate, did not happen.

It's a change of tack for China, which has long had a policy of non-interference but is now taking a more proactive stance in global politics.

China correspondent Huey Fern Tay reports from Beijing.

(Footage of missile attack on Damascus plays)

HUEY FERN TAY, REPORTER: This is the carnage after Israeli missiles rained down in areas near the Syrian capital of Damascus last weekend. It happened twice in three days.

Israel reportedly believed that Iranian supplied missiles were being stored there, waiting to be transferred to the Hezbollah guerrilla group in Lebanon.

Syria's government saw this not only as an act of war on the country, but also a sign that Israel supported the anti Assad rebels. The livid Syrian government warned of unspecified retaliation.

OMRAN AL-ZOUBI, SYRIAN INFORMATION MINISTER (translation): The Syrian military has the right and the responsibility to protect its country and people from any form of infringement, either at home or abroad.

(Footage of Benjamin Netanyahu leaving for China plays)

HUEY FERN TAY: The attack by Israel happened just before its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was to leave for a long overdue trip to China.

Since arriving in the country, Mr Netanyahu has been meeting with business leaders and the new Chinese leadership.

Trade has been the main focus of his visit, but at his opening address in Shanghai, his first stop in the country, Mr Netanyahu began by thanking Shanghai for helping the Jewish community during the Second World War.

(Archival footage of Jewish arrivals in Shanghai during World War Two plays)

Shanghai was one of very few cities in the world that did not require an entry visa at the time. Around 30,000 Jews flooded into the city during a period when most doors were closed.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU (subtitled): We had Jews fleeing for their lives in the great Nazi holocaust and they found refuge in Shanghai. And we say thank you. We never forget our friends.

HUEY FERN TAY: Mr Netanyahu then went on to say the Jewish people no longer needed to plead to be rescued because they could defend themselves.

But that's not how Beijing viewed Israel's recent actions in Syria.

Analysts like Li Guofu, who briefed China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, sayBeijing was worried about the conflict getting out of hand.

LI GUOFU, CHINA INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES (translation): I personally feel that Israel's bombing in Syria has expanded what is already a very complicated situation and is not beneficial to peace and stability in the Middle East.

HUEY FERN TAY: What Beijing did support, though, was more dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

That was one of the points raised by Chinese president Xi Jinping during his meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

President Xi had waded into the historic conflict by offering a four point plan to bring it to an end.

LI GUOFU (translation): China has never thought that the problem between Israel and Palestine has nothing to do with it. China is a responsible empire in the international stage. China always believed that it should encourage Israel and Palestine to reach a peace agreement as soon as possible.

HUEY FERN TAY: The presence of Mr Netanyahu and Mr Abbas in China during the same week at the invitation of its leaders is being framed by Chinese state media as a sign that their country is ready to take on more responsibilities on the international stage.

But is China able to become a mediator in a peace process that has stalled for the past four years? After all, many have tried and failed to resolve one of the world's trickiest international disputes.

There is reason for China to get more involved in the region because it depends on the Middle East for half of its oil supplies. Being a peacemaker would also help mend China's image among neighbouring countries as an aggressor.

But in the end, the meeting that China offered to facilitate on its own soil did not happen, even though it would have been welcomed by at least one side.

MAHMOUD ABBAS, PALESTINIAN PRESIDENT (translation): In principle I have no objection to meeting with Mr Netanyahu. If this meeting happens in China it is also something I would welcome. But we haven't agreed to such a meeting.

HUEY FERN TAY: China may not have been able to take a front row seat on such a high profile issue this time. But the overtures it has made shows the new administration is eager to have a bigger say in the Middle East.
Advertisement
Home and Away
Improve Your English
Advertisement
Explore Australia Network
TV Guide
Ways to Watch
News
Learning English
Sports Lounge
About Us
Australia Network Home
Help
Legals
© ABC 2014