China reaffirms commitment to Palestinian state
Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged on Tuesday to make "unremitting" efforts towards promoting peace in the Middle East following a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, as China steps up its diplomatic engagement with the region.
Palestinian officials have urged China, which supports an independent Palestinian state, to do more in the Middle East peace process.
Chinese envoys occasionally visit Israel and the Palestinian Territories, though China has traditionally played little role in Middle East conflicts or diplomacy despite its reliance on the region for oil.
Speaking to reporters after meeting Abbas in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, Xi said the international community paid close attention to the Middle East peace process.
"As the Palestinian people's good friend, partner and brother, China hopes Palestine and Israel can achieve peace as soon as possible and live and work in peace. China will make unremitting efforts for this," Xi said, after receiving a Palestinian medal of honour from Abbas.
China has historically had a good relationship with the Palestinians.
The Middle East, however, is fraught with risk for China, which has little experience navigating the religious and political tensions that frequently rack the region.
Deputy Chinese Foreign Minister Zhang Ming later said Xi reiterated support for the establishment of a Palestinian state, and also called for the security of both the Palestinians and Israelis to be protected.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also met with Xi on a visit to Beijing in March, with the Chinese leader calling for peace between Israel and the Palestinians "as soon as possible".
Netanyahu said Israel was willing to see China play a bigger role in Middle East affairs, according to state media.
Trade between China and Israel has flourished since diplomatic ties were established in 1992.
China's total investment in Israel exceeds six billion dollars, and Israeli-designed technologies are used across the world's second largest economy.
The two countries began free trade negotiations last year.