Wang Yi contacts Saudi, Iranian counterparts, discusses Iran-Israel tensions

BEIJING: China’s top diplomat Wang Yi held phone talks with his Iranian and Saudi counterparts Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud separately on Monday regarding the tensions between Israel and Iran, and the wider situation in the Middle East.

Chinese experts emphasized that Beijing’s recent actions demonstrate its commitment to playing a constructive role in de-escalating tensions in the Middle East and maintaining stability in the Gulf region.

They note that China’s impartiality in mediating conflicts in the region has earned support and trust from regional countries. Experts also point out that causality on the recent Iran-Israel conflict is clear.

Noting that the current regional situation is very sensitive, Amir-Abdollahian said Iran is willing to exercise restraint and has no intention of further escalating the situation.

Wang, also a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, told Amir-Abdollahian that China strongly condemns and firmly opposes the attack on the consular section of the Iranian embassy in Damascus, regarding it as a serious violation of international law and unacceptable.

China has noted Iran’s statement that its action taken was limited and was an act of self-defense in response to the attack against the Iranian consulate in Syria, Wang said.

Wang told Faisal that China appreciates Saudi Arabia’s emphasis on resolving issues through diplomatic means, and that China is willing to work together with Saudi Arabia to avoid further escalation of confrontation in the Middle East.

Noting that Saudi Arabia highly expects China to play an active and important role in this regard, Faisal said the Saudi side is willing to strengthen communication and coordination with China to promote an immediate and unconditional cease-fire in Gaza, start the implementation of the two-state solution, and help achieve stability in the Middle East at an early date.

Wang’s phone calls with his counterparts of Iran and Saudi Arabia reflect that there are high expectations for China to mediate regional conflicts, Liu Zhongmin, a professor at the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University, told the Global Times on Tuesday. China has been actively involved in resolving hotspot issues in the Middle East in recent years, and this mediation has become an integral part of China’s Middle East diplomacy, which is also shaping China’s approach in resolving hotspot issues, Liu said.

Moreover, China is willing to play a constructive role in de-escalating the tensions between Iran and Israel, as well as maintaining the hard-won peace and stability in Gulf region brought about by the resumption of diplomatic ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Liu said.

Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles at Israel on Saturday night, a move to retaliate for an Israeli strike on its Damascus consulate on April 1. Israeli military chief Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said on Monday that Israel is considering its next steps but that the Iranian strike “will be met with a response,” according to the Associated Press.

Apart from exchanging views with Arab countries, China is also talking with Israel about the current conflict. Zhai Jun, special envoy of the Chinese government on Middle East issues, met with Israeli Ambassador to China Irit Ben-Abba Vitale on Monday.

Zhai elaborated on China’s principled position on the conflict in Gaza and said that China is deeply concerned about the current escalation of regional tensions, and conflicts and bloodshed serve the interests of no one. All parties concerned should exercise maximum calm and restraint.

“We were hoping for stronger condemnation and clear acknowledgment of Israel’s right to defend itself,” said Yuval Waks, deputy chief of the Israeli mission in China told a press briefing on Monday when asked what response the embassy had hoped for, according to the South China Morning Post.

“Unfortunately, we did not see that, which is why we were unhappy with the statement [from the Chinese foreign ministry],” Waks said.

The current escalating tension between Israel and Iran is due to Israel’s bombing of the Iranian embassy. The merits of this issue itself are relatively clear. China’s stance on this issue is not about taking sides, Zhu Yongbiao, executive director of the Research Center for the Belt and Road at Lanzhou University, told media.

Echoing Zhu, Liu said that Israel is gradually being isolated in international society due to its behavior in the Palestine-Israel crisis.

“If Israel’s policy remains unchanged and continues to challenge Iran’s bottom line, the conflict will continue to spread and affect regional security and stability. This does not mean that China’s mediation alone is able to solve the problem,” Liu said.

He noted that China plays more of a role in persuading both sides to maintain rational restraint and return to the track of dialogue, rather than exerting pressure and condemning one party.

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