- China’s envoy to the Middle East met with diplomats from Arab nations on Friday.
- Mao Ning, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, spoke after the envoy’s meeting and said China urges Israel to exercise restraint in its response to escalated tensions with Palestinians.
- Mao said China requested the U.N. Security Council to hold emergency consultations on the Israel-Palestine situation at the request of Arab states.
China’s government has urged Israel “in particular” to remain calm in the face of recently escalated tensions with Palestinians.
During a Friday press conference, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning delivered a message that stressed restraint from Zhai Jun, China’s special envoy for the Middle East. Mao’s remarks came after Zhai met earlier in the day with a group of diplomats from Arab countries to discuss the ongoing conflicts.
Violence between Israelis and Palestinians escalated this week following Israeli police raids at the compound of the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, a site that is also holy in Judaism. The growing tensions come during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which coincides with the Jewish Passover holiday this year.
The resulting exchange of fire across the border between Lebanon and Israel is the biggest since the 34-day war between Israel and Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas in 2006 (The Lebanese government has condemned the rocket fire coming from its territory).
“Zhai Jun said that the pressing task now is to keep the situation under control,” Mao said. “China urges relevant parties, Israel in particular, to stay calm and exercise restraint to the greatest extent, avoid taking any actions that may heighten tensions and prevent further escalation of the situation.”
Mao’s press conference came as Israel launched massive airstrikes on Lebanon. Israel has blamed the Palestinian militant group Hamas for launching rockets from Lebanon, but neither Hamas nor the Lebanese group Hezbollah has claimed responsibility for the attacks. Israel also reported it had hit targets across Gaza on Friday.
Mao said that Zhai has requested that “relevant sides to act in accordance with relevant UN resolutions” as well as “respect and maintain the historical status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem.”
She added that China asked the United Nations Security Council to hold emergency consultations on the Israel-Palestine situation at the request of Arab states in an effort to facilitate de-escalation. China is also “in close communication with relevant parties in the international community to facilitate peace talks.”
The foreign ministry spokesperson also stated that China supports an independent Palestinian state as a means to create peace in the region.
“Zhai Jun said that the fundamental way to resolve the conflicts between Palestine and Israel is the implementation of the two-state solution and the establishment of an independent state of Palestine,” Mao said.
“Major countries with influence need to step up to their responsibilities, take a just position and play their due part in facilitating the resumption of peace talks between Palestine and Israel on the basis of the two-state solution.”
Newsweek reached out to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs via email for comment.